Special Olympics at Elon

Betty Garrison
April 11, 2014

Special Olympics, 1995

Special Olympics, 1995

Elon and the Special Olympics have always had a special bond.  Elon College hosted the first state Games in 1972, just four years after the first national Special Olympics Games were held in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Over the years, Elon has supplied thousands of volunteers, from those who plan the event to those who partner with an athlete for the day to all those who sit in the stands to cheer them on.  Each athlete is a winner and each receives a medal on the day they compete.

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Elon University has hosted Alamance County Special Olympics Games since 1972.

Through the years, many campus groups have volunteered to help with the Games, including student volunteers from the Kernodle Center, Elon Volunteers!, student athletes, Elon ROTC, sororities, fraternities, and student clubs.  The Kernodle Center has long been a staunch supporter and has recruited many volunteers from the Elon student body.  For most years, the Elon coordinator for the event was a student.

1988 was a typical year when the Games were held at the Burlington Athletic Stadium with 300 participants from the ages of 16-65!  This event drew 400 volunteers, many from Elon.  In 1998, the Games were held on the athletic field surrounding the Koury Field House on Elon’s campus.  Of the 750 volunteers, over 500 were expected to be Elon students.  The Games have been held in Rhodes Stadium after it was completed in 2001.

Special Olympics, 1995

Special Olympics, 1995

Some of the comments from students and faculty about their experience volunteering at the Games are meaningful.   Laura McCabe in 2010 said, “Some of these athletes could kick my butt on the basketball court or on the track.  They are serious, training athletes with tremendous talent.”  In 1999, the Special Olympics student coordinator Chantel Voinier said, “The excitement and attitude of the athletes is really high. They are really excited and energetic about Special Olympics.”  In a 1991 Pendulum article, Jim Drummond acknowledged that he could not thank everyone and he said, “…Special Olympics truly involves intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards and everyone who participated has already received his/her “special” thanks.”  At the Special Olympics in April 2008, President Leo Lambert said, “This is a cool day, but I see a lot of bright smiles and warm hearts here.”

For more information about Elon Volunteers! and the Special Olympics, click here.

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