By Emily Myers
When I first heard a Special Olympics event planning course was being offered at the Mount, I immediately knew that I wanted to enroll. Having previously been inspired when I volunteered with Special Olympics during the Fall Sports Festival held at the Mount, I knew I wanted to do more with the organization. The course focuses on getting hands-on experience in all of the specific areas of planning an event while working hard for an organization that I think is very important.
Cycling, powerlifting, tennis, and flag-football were all a part of the Special Olympics annual event at the Mount. This year, the Mount students taking BUS 395 Program Development and Implementation: Special Olympics, planned the cycling event. We learned the technical aspects of event planning and then applied those lessons to planning the event. The most challenging aspect was the limited amount of time we had to plan our cycling event. The date for the Fall Sports Festival was already scheduled and it landed fairly early in our semester, so we faced a tight deadline. My classmates and I had to learn how to work together very quickly and realize that even though we had been assigned our own jobs, we had to be willing to step-in wherever needed in order for the event to be a success.
My specific task: venue manager. For my role, I needed to ensure that the venue was going to be suitable the day of the event and that everything would run smoothly. I was responsible for making sure the venue was well-marked with signs and putting plans in place so everyone made it to and from the event safely. Additionally, I had to oversee medical, equipment, transportation, and food.
The most rewarding aspect of planning the cycling event was making it a great day for the athletes. Though there were definitely some bumps along the way, the main goal of the day was to please the athletes, and I think that was accomplished. I’m not sure if there is one specific thing that I would change for next year. Even when we ran into some problems, my classmates and I seemed to handle them quickly and efficiently. One way to improve the event next year is to share the problems we faced this year with the incoming Special Olympics class so that they can prepare accordingly.
The Special Olympics and the Mount’s involvement with the Fall Sports Festival is important because it solely focuses on the athletes and makes sure that they are having the best time possible. What is very important about these events is that the organization and the volunteers look at the athletes for what they are—athletes. The focus is on the athlete’s ability, not disability. These athletes are some of the best athletes I have ever met. My favorite moment of the day would have to be seeing the expressions on the athletes’ faces when they stepped up on the podium to receive their award. There was just pure joy and excitement on their faces, no matter where they placed.