Montgomery County, MD Special Olympics Inspiration Walk/Run & Fit Fun 2017
It was likely the participants of the Inspiration Run/Walk who were supposed to be the most inspired today but I think it was ME who was! Over 350 people gathered at Georgetown Prep School on this cold morning to do one of 3 things: (1) participate in the 5k run or 1k walk; (2) support and cheer for a participant; or (3) to volunteer. I, like many others, did all 3 and had very "special" experience!
At first, I manned the raffle table with 2 other volunteers from the Montgomery County Bar Association. Registration fees and raffle ticket proceeds support 26 local athletes from the Maryland Delegation who are going to the 2018 Special Olympics USA in Seattle, Washington this July. The raffle table was hopping and was a great place to interact with families. By mid-morning, I was excused and joined other guests on the main field for the Welcome Ceremony. Knights of Columbus lead the processional with large flags, football players from Georgetown Prep escorted athletes from the MD Delegation onto the field, "Team Joy" performed their cheers, and a saxophonist played the national anthem. Groups then assembled to either start the Inspiration 1k or the 5k run. I planned to be a buddy runner but when no one seemed to need me, I considered hanging back just to watch and cheer. Then disappointment set in -- I really wanted to be a part of this inspiring race! So, off I went -- running and cheering and engaging along the way. I ran with some members of the men's soccer team and others who were running alone. My conversations weren't extensive but they were nice and whenever I cheered for them, I was always kindly thanked and/or encouraged in return.
The best part, however, was after the race when I "ran" into someone I grew up with. She looked exactly the same, just a little bit older. Andrea was someone I remembered from the neighborhood pool. She always wore a bright smile and never seemed deterred by her challenges. Andrea may not have remembered me but she was very happy to talk to me about the old neighborhood, mutual acquaintances, and her family. It made me happy to see her doing so well. As kids, we don't think about kids with special needs growing up to be adults with special needs but they do and she seemed great.
Montgomery County's chapter of the Special Olympics (SOMO) supports about 600 athletes in 23 sports and has about 300 active volunteers. They raised over $30,000 in this 6th annual event. This organization gives great support to its athletes, their families, and to its volunteers. Our volunteer shirts read "Athletes are Why - Volunteers are How". I will support this fine organization again and I hope you will too.
My Takeaways: (1) Inspiration can come from the little things in life. For these participants and their families, the inspiration was just being together, running 3.1 miles or walking 1 mile with their peers. They trained for this and were happy to have accomplished their goals. (2) This is a true community. It felt strong, supportive, and very connected. I wish there were more all-inclusive events where everyone could interact together more often. I think it would help everyone to grow. (3) Lastly, running a 5k on grass is hard! How does Ella do it for all of those cross country meets? I hope the coach will let her team come next year to cheer on the runners.