Volunteering with the Special Olympics Texas Winter Games

This past February as I was taking a break from studying, I was listening to my favorite sports talk radio show. During their commercial break, I heard an advertisement about how one can volunteer with Special Olympics Texas in their Winter Games events. I had previously heard about how great it was to volunteer with this organization, and I decided then that I would sign up as soon as possible. When I visited the website, I found that there were three sports to choose from that one could volunteer with: bowling, volleyball, and weightlifting, and I decided to choose bowling.

After I signed myself up, I immediately posted the information to my local NFB chapter’s email list as well as our social media outlets to encourage others to volunteer with me. One of my fellow chapter members immediately contacted me, and we signed ourselves up to help with the awards ceremonies at a particular bowling alley. This event was a qualifier competition for the participants to compete to earn a trip to the National Special Olympics Competition, where they would then compete to earn a trip to the World competition.

When we arrived at the bowling alley, we were given two roles. The first was to put together the 4th place ribbons for the participants, and the other was to present all the medals and ribbons to the participants who came in 1st to 4th place. Many of our fellow volunteers asked us if we were participants in this event. Since the Special Olympics directly works with individuals with disabilities, I was not surprised that we were asked this question. We both politely replied that we were there to volunteer, and our fellow sighted volunteers were excited to have us work with them.

As we sat in the awards room putting together the ribbons, several other volunteers came up to us with questions about blindness. The questions ranged from how we live our daily lives to how we live successfully as a blind student and a working professional. Since they were focusing on our blindness first and us as people second, we both conveyed the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and how blindness is not the characteristic that defines us. I personally found this a great platform to politely educate our sighted friends on how we successfully live our lives in the manner that we want. The other volunteers were fascinated by the legislative efforts of the NFB in regards to Disability rights and were appreciative that there is an organization out there that works so hard for these rights.

The question was then asked, “How will you both be able to present the awards to the participants?” I informed them that we could first ask permission to feel for each participant’s shoulder and then align the medal over their head in order to put it around their neck. After the competition was over, we went to each of our assigned lanes and had the winners line up from 1st place to fourth from left to right. The winners were then announced, and the two of us took turns in a rotation handing out the medals. Many of the participants asked for high fives, and we happily obliged.

I spoke with my fellow chapter member afterwards, and we both were in agreement that it was a tremendous feeling to join in on the celebration with the bowling participants. Several of our fellow volunteers came up to us afterwards and personally thanked us for our assistance in making the event a huge success. This was a truly rewarding experience not only by making the bowling event enjoyable for the participants, but also by educating the sighted public directly about individuals with blindness and other disabilities. This was a small step in the efforts to demonstrate that we as blind individuals can become involved in volunteering in any capacity and to show how rewarding community service can be for everyone involved.