Special Olympics in need of volunteers

By Trevor Allison

Special Olympics Texas will host the Heart of Texas Spring Games on Saturday at Connally High School in Waco.

The games will include track and field events and will begin with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m.

Tommy Smith, the Heart of Texas area director for Special Olympics Texas, said his organization received an overwhelming response to its call for volunteers in the Waco community.

“Special Olympics Texas is an organization with very few paid staff,” Smith said. “For an event of this magnitude, we have to have volunteers.”

Smith said there will be 369 participants in the games and 405 volunteers to facilitate the event. So many people volunteered that a new volunteer area had to be created, he said.

“We created an additional opportunity called ‘Fans in the Stands,’ where fans can wait around the finish line to cheer on participants and give them high-fives when they cross the finish line,” Smith said.

Smith said Special Olympics Texas depends on volunteers, and is something to which many people enjoy giving their time. “People love to be involved in some sort of volunteering, and Special Olympics Texas gives people a chance to be involved in something unique and fun,” he said.

Lorena graduate student Jon Pickle was one of those volunteers. Pickle, who has volunteered at several different Special Olympics events, said one job he had was passing out snack bags.

“Making the snack bags seemed pretty minute compared to running the different stations, but seeing reactions from different contestants when they got their snack bag was enjoyable to see,” Pickle said. Pickle said he encourages Baylor students to volunteer for the organization if they have the chance.

“Volunteering with Special Olympics is a simple way to give back to the community and help out a great cause,” Pickle said. “Baylor students are blessed in many ways, and Special Olympics is a way to bless the lives of others.”

Smith said the next Special Olympics sport event for the Heart of Texas area is an equestrian competition, which will be held May 19.

Smith said that with Special Olympics Texas, unlike other sports competitions, participants don’t need to win to qualify for the state games,

The Special Olympics Texas Summer Games 2012 will be held May 24-28 in Arlington on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. Many volunteer opportunities are still available for the Summer Games, which include competitions in five different sports.

Special Olympics Texas is a nonprofit organization that hosts more than 300 regional and statewide events in 22 sports every year, utilizing 47,000 volunteers.

Smith said volunteer spots are still available for Fans in the Stands. To volunteer, visit area12.eventbrite.com. For more information about the organization, contact Tommy Smith at tsmith@sotx.org or 254-230-4824.