Special Olympics Unites People On and Off the Field
By: Ethan Meunier
Sports have the power to inspire and unite people from all over the globe. They act like a melting pot; an athletic competition brings together people of all different ages, backgrounds, and ideologies and unites them together under a common activity. One organization that I believe captures the essence of this truth is Special Olympics. Special Olympics Indiana is a non-profit organization that provides year-round training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It creates a supportive community for those with intellectual disabilities to compete and push their talents to the limit while spreading a message of inclusion and diversity. In 2018, there were over 16,000 athletes of all ages in Indiana competing in 28 sports.
I’ve been involved with Special Olympics Indiana for a while now; I have a brother with Down Syndrome named Jack, and because of him, I have had the privilege of getting to know many Special Olympics athletes personally. I started volunteering at Special Olympics events through Memorial’s Key Club, serving at bowling matches and track meets. Once I joined the Teen Advisory Council my junior year, I was excited to learn that TAC serves Special Olympics as well, and I used this opportunity to reach out to the Special Olympics chapter of Evansville in order to gain more TAC involvement in their events.
Special Olympics events are some of my favorite places to serve because volunteering there provides so much for the athletes as well as the volunteers. At track meets, I would help time the athletes during their races, measure distances for the throwers, and gather athletes for their heats, and at bowling matches, I would help keep track of scores. The most important part of any job volunteering with the Special Olympics, though, is supporting and cheering on the athletes. The Special Olympians love the encouragement (like any athlete does) and are so grateful for the volunteers. For me, serving with the Special Olympics and watching them compete always leaves me with a feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Special Olympics events are super fun but also competitive; each sport has a tournament at the end of the year where athletes from all over Indiana compete for a state title, and no athlete wants to miss the opportunity to qualify. Special Olympians take their sports very seriously and practice a lot to push themselves to achieve their peak performance; I remember watching my first bowling match and being amazed at how skilled some of the athletes were. Their commitment to success despite the odds continues to inspire me to this day.
I have learned firsthand that people with intellectual disabilities are often looked down upon and that society can have preconceived notions of what people with disabilities are capable of. What’s great about the Special Olympics is that it breaks down these misconceptions by showcasing the gifts and talents of those with intellectual disabilities and proving to the world what they can do. Special Olympics uses sport as a catalyst for social change and as a way to bring together communities of acceptance and support. By encouraging those with intellectual disabilities to compete, stay fit, develop relationships, and grow as people, Special Olympics Indiana is making the city of Evansville a better place for everyone.
Ethan Meunier is a senior at Memorial High School and will be attending the University of Evansville in the fall to study biology. He is a member of the Teen Advisory Council and also a member of TEENPOWER’s Youth Staff.