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The Special Olympics provides value to all

May 19, 2009

The Special Olympics is more than a day devoted to athletic events. It is perhaps one of the most influential classrooms where lessons of acceptance, inclusion, ability and pride are taught on the fields by our greatest teachers – the athletes.


In fact, the students from a school in Beaver County perpetuated this theme with a message on the back of their shirts, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.”


On a recent Friday, more than 50 FedEx volunteers traveled to a local high school in the Pittsburgh area for the Special Olympics, coaching and cheering more than 600 Special Olympians and learning these valuable lessons. It is often said that working with children with special needs requires the patience of a saint and interminable human compassion — and this day proved that more of us are capable than we seem to acknowledge.


All of our volunteers gathered on the bleachers of the high school stadium and eagerly awaited the arrival of the Special Olympians, who were traveling from several schools in the county. The pining expressions on the kids’ faces as they entered the stadium were humbling. One boy even grabbed hold of my hand on his way up the bleachers, and that was all I needed to realize the mutual impact of the day.


A few of the FedEx volunteers had an even closer connection with the Special Olympics as parents to the athletes. “As a parent, it was very touching to see so many people here,” said Marie Hawk, human resources, FedEx Ground. “It really means a lot to me.”


Wherever our volunteers were needed, everyone was willing and ready. Some played coach and mentor to the athletes, while others recorded measurements on the long jump and softball toss. Because of overwhelming volunteer participation from the community, some volunteers simply played cheerleader on the sideline of the 100-yard dash – a job not to be outdone.


Regardless, the ability of many of these athletes and the genuine excitement that they exuded blew my mind. Flexing muscles, confident “trash talk,” push up challenges and calls home to dad after winning a race were just a few of my vivid memories from the day.


A parent stopped Lori Calgoro, FedEx Ground volunteer, and asked Lori if she was from FedEx Ground. After replying yes, Lori was told that FedEx has the best volunteers. Noting the appreciation from others is reassuring and motivating.


At the end of the day, a quote came to mind that I read a long time ago and now resonated for me, “A man never stood so tall as to when he stooped to help a child.”

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