During this time of the year – when people are often stressed and just ready for the break that comes with Thanksgiving – perspective can be very important. This past Saturday, November 17th, eight of our HealthCorps Navigators got just that.
The Special Olympics Connecticut Holiday Sports Classic took place this past weekend at venues across the state, and our Navigators traveled to the AMF Lanes in Milford to assist with one of the bowling events. As we arrived we were astonished by the number of volunteers who had turned out to help with this worthy cause, and estimates were that well over 125 people were on hand to ensure the activities went smoothly. After a short volunteer meeting, our group was given the task of addressing any problems with the automated scoring systems within the venue. Seeing as there were already several volunteers assigned to each lane, I think it is safe to say we all felt as though we were a bit excess to detail when the actual event began. However, the incredibly social manner of our HealthCorps group soon took over, and most of us found a way to get involved in the event in no time at all.
A majority of the 60 (!) lanes at the Milford site were dedicated to athletes who were capable of bowling on their own, with about 10 lanes reserved at one end of the alley for participants who were either in wheelchairs or who needed additional aid. This latter portion of the alley – labeled “ramp bowling” – featured sloping, metal structures that were shaped like slides. These devices allowed athletes to drop their ball down the “ramp” and guide it towards the pins. Most of our Navigators ended up assisting athletes who were participating in this form of bowling, and it turned out to be a rewarding and inspiring experience.
Interacting with the Olympians themselves was the best part of the day, as meeting these individuals and seeing their sheer joy and desire was awesome. The athletes are generally so positive and glad to be there, and the Special Olympics pledge of “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt” was fully on display.
One particular occurrence summarized the whole day for me. Early on in the competition, one of the athletes participating in ramp bowling sent a ball down the lane that looked destined for the gutter. Miraculously, when the ball was about halfway towards the pins, it took a mean curve and headed directly for the center of the 10-figure triangle. Though a strike was not in the cards, the fact that the ball took such an unexpected and wonderful turn and knocked down several pins was cause for celebration within itself. All those watching this happen were puzzled but pleasantly surprised, and such a great turn of fortune was fully deserved by any participant in this wonderful event.
Stay tuned for more updates on the service experiences of our HealthCorps Navigators, and if you are interested in volunteering at the Special Olympics Connecticut, click here http://www.soct.org/