Special Olympics

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations

Neither Ray nor I knew what miracles were possible. At one hundred and eighty-five pounds, five foot ten inches tall, and a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome, Ray was a Special Olympic athlete with a dream to become a champion, but his mental handicap blocked his path. Although my family and I had long volunteered for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Meals on Wheels, and other charity organizations, helping the Special Olympics never interested me. I needed community service hours for a leadership group, however, and decided to apply to be a Special Olympics referee and mentor.In November, the chair of the Special Olympics committee introduced me to Ray, the young man whose mentor I would become. We had only one week together before his upcoming floor hockey championship. At first, Ray was unmotivated and uncooperative; this made me feel impatient and uninterested as well. I tried repeatedly to make him practice and improve his athleticism, but at the end of the day I felt about as unmotivated as Ray did. It wasn’t until the day I found Ray crying in the back of the locker room that a sudden realization struck me. Sobbing, he explained that he felt like a poor athlete and an embarrassment to his father, an overly competitive Special Olympics veteran. Having experienced unending drills as a varsity football player, I knew a variety of drills that could get Ray into shape in a severely limited time frame.With only a week left till the finals, I took on the challenge to incorporate as many daily drills as possible. Ray’s attitude was increasingly cooperative so I pushed him as hard as he could go, with fatiguing wind sprints and a myriad of stamina-based exercises. I knew he was exhausted, but his eyes gleamed with the determination to stand out as a competitor. As the final floor hockey event approached, I convinced Ray’s coach to let him start for the first period to give him a chance to show his newfound agility and speed. We were all taken aback. Ray demonstrated athletic excellence, scoring more than half the goals for his team – his best performance ever. This amazing accomplishment helped him believe that strong work ethics and diligence can produce phenomenal results. Ray was not the only one to realize something new. My vision of community service had been transformed in its entirety. Through Ray’s victory, I could see that the value of community service went beyond adding a few hours for leadership requirements – it can change lives in a specialized community that cannot exist without its volunteers. While this particular experience as a mentor may only travel as far as Ray’s Special Olympics State Championship in Sacramento, the miracle I experienced with Ray has laid the foundation for my future in academics and a life of service and diligence. 

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