Volunteers gain special insight

by Cory Pfister

The area around Bill Buxton Stadium was packed this Monday with 750 Special Olympics athletes and hundreds of volunteers, each of whom found the day to be rewarding.

Volunteers from Simpson, Indianola High School and residents of the community helped register athletes, run events and transport athletes to their challenges.

Some students volunteered because it related to their Simpson classes. Coach Bruce Wilson required his foundations of physical education students to volunteer at the Olympics.

“I had to volunteer for Bruce Wilson’s class but it was still a great experience,” sophomore Haley Hopp said. “This is something I definitely want to continue doing.”

Hopp found the experience to be especially rewarding because she watched the competitors overcome their disabilities and enjoy what they were doing. Also, Hopp said it was special to see how much competing meant to them.

Junior Sara Sonderman is in her third year of volunteering for Special Olympics on the Simpson College campus and believes volunteering is a wonderful way to show support for people with disabilities.

“People make fun of [the handicapped], but if they volunteered they would see how lucky they are and how happy and excited about life they [the Special Olympic athletes] are,” Sonderman said.

Sonderman was required by Coach Jay Neimann’s special needs class to attend the Olympics, but she volunteered by her own will.

“I think everyone should volunteer and show support for the amazing things these kids do,” Sonderman said.

Hopp agreed that the experience of volunteering at the Special Olympics is one that can be a good eye-opener for college students.

“People who are not accustomed to people with disabilities should volunteer and see these kids triumph at something we may take for granted,” Hopp said.

During and after each event the athletes were met by high-fives, hugs and words of encouragement, which provides a positive feeling of accomplishment for the participants.

The Special Olympics spring competition required about 100 volunteers from the Simpson community. It was up to Laurie Dienberg-Hoppe, assistant director of student life, and Nicole Modianos-Stumo, assistant director of student activities, to find people to fill those spots.

“The sign-up sheet was outside the office. We had exactly 100 people sign up. Plus, I’m sure there were more that just showed up,” Dienberg-Hoppe said.

It seems that the Special Olympics will be returning to Simpson next year. Many of the volunteers look forward to being involved again.

“I could only help for three hours because I had class,” Hopp said. “I wish I could have stayed longer. I was there long enough to see the events but not long enough to see the athletes get their awards and see their hard work pay off.”