“It’s always a laughter-filled time,” Student Development Coordinator Megan Boone said. “It’s the best time commitment students can make on a Saturday morning.”
Boone is referring to the Special Olympics Bowling Tournament, a regional competition and international program that Wilkes has been partnering with in Luzerne County for two years now.
Special Olympians come to Chakos from across sectionals. As with any most every competition, there are metals and placements involved. If the athletes place, they then go on to nationals and then world competitions.
This Special Olympics event is very similar to those so many people around the world watch on television, except that the athletes that participate have other special abilities.
Most of them are the moderate to severe spectrum and cannot function without some type of aid because they don’t fit in with those they are around on a daily basis, such as those they go to school with, and so on.
“It’s sort of like a release for them,” junior psychology major Adam Bailey said. “This is a really fantastic cause to get involved with because you are helping people that can’t really help themselves.”
Part of working with Special Olympics is becoming a Special Olympics college. It is about bringing in guest speakers and athletes who have placed in the past and can talk about the value of the experience and then getting volunteers interested.
Those involved at Wilkes work to gather volunteers, generate interest in the program, student coaches to work with the teams, practice space and simply to grow and foster relationships with the athletes.
“Once you start working with the program, you develop a passion for it,” Boone said. “Their enthusiasm sort of encourages you to stay with it. After being around the athletes, you get very attached to them.”
Students have put in a heavy volunteering effort to help out.
“I joined the event because I felt that it was a really nice cause,” Bailey said. “I know from personal experience that helping people is a fantastic joy. The athletes especially benefit because they really look up to our teams, who can do things the Special Olympians cannot. They motivate the athletes, so helping them along with their training is just very beneficial.”
Bailey said the Special Olympics are similar to Relay for Life because you build a connection with the Olympians.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to get involved for people who know what it’s like to have to be in that position,” Bailey said.
Through this program, these Special Olympics athletes get to meet new friends and see other friends from competition. But it doesn’t stop there. They will also ask millions of questions and tell you their life story, but Boone said the best part is they will remember your name every time they see you.
“It is a very positive, rewarding experience for a Saturday morning,” Boone said.
These athletes aren’t the only ones who benefit from taking part in this program. Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects for students is that it breaks down barriers about what people think about those who have challenges in their life. Students will also find that working with the athletes is a great time.
“Once you start breaking down the barriers, you become very invested in making it successful,” Boone said.
Although fundraising efforts were being made through erasing “r” word T-shirts, more are still needed. The bowling tournament was the first initial installment, but Bailey said he wants to make Wilkes a Special Olympics college and actually host events for the college so that they can come and use our facilities. This way the university can act as a sponsor for them.
For future efforts to help fund this event, those currently involved will also work with other teams like football, tennis and swimming as well as Adventures Coordinator Jill Price.
Toward the end of the semester, the plan is to have a spirit week which will be a four day event. Each day will feature a different theme with different activities where people can get involved. The final day will be a field day in the UCOM, which will be similar to Winter Weekend. Here stations of activities will be available for those who would like to come.
These efforts will keep on. The initiation came with the T-shirts, but eventually restaurants will be sought and people can come in with their ticket, where a percentage of proceeds go to towards the funds for the event.
Despite the disturbances caused by the recent inclement weather, fundraising has been slightly difficult to accomplish. But there are more in store as the semester continues.
Students were able follow a link the Today @ Wilkes announcements to sign up to participate in the event, and transportation and food were provided.
The bowling tournament was held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16.