Story and Photo by: Jordan Miller ’21
Pictured: COORDINATING COMPASSION Sam Miller and Jane Whitley dedicate hours of their lives each week to the club of kids. “Totally worth it,” they say at the same time.
On Saturday, March 5, 2018 from 5-9 P.M. the SOCO Shindig took place in the Regis Jesuit Girls Division gym. The Special Olympics Club sold tickets for $15 each and raised more than $9,000.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics Organization. In 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver spoke out against how the world regarded people of physical, intellectual or mental disabilities. She wanted to shed light on the disregarded subject, her sister being disabled and held in various insanity institutes. She began the Special Olympics organization in the backyard of her home in Maryland, where it grew to be a national competition in Chicago 50 years ago. Then, in December of that same year The Joseph P. Kennedy organization incorporated it into their own organization. This was the biggest special needs foundation of its kind.
Sam Miller, Denver Regional in Youth Leadership Manager, began his journey with Special Olympics when he was in high school. He organized events and was able to be a part of the Special Olympics community whilst being on his own student council. “I had a love for people and a love for sports; this was the way I got to marry both of my passions.”
He explained that to be in Special Olympics was to be a part of a close knit family. In the club at Regis’s Jesuit, some of the athletes’ only motivation to get up in the morning was to come to Special Olympics. Here at Regis, the club has over 300 members with many different jobs. Some of the volunteers come as leaders, some as coaches for the teams, buddies for the players and financial donors. “If you walk out of that club feeling unchanged,” says Miller, “you’d be the first one; ever.” He also says that this club has opened the eyes of both his colleagues involved and the students he has worked with.
Kevin Bruno, a player in Special Olympics Unified Program, was asked to speak at Regis’s Diversity Day. He has a condition commonly known as Down Syndrome, and embraces it. He gave a presentation explaining both the medical side of his condition, and how Special Olympics has changed his life forever. He’s been featured on the news, and is one of the most popular student at his school. He doesn’t let his disability limit how he loves and how he plays. This, acknowledged by many, is nothing less than inspirational to the Special Olympics volunteers. Special Olympics has hundreds of students like Kevin, all loving and accepting of others.
Most of the athletes that enter special Olympics are out of high school. Jane Whitley, club moderator and Girls Division librarian, says that, “It’s amazing to see these players from community jobs where they are treated horribly, come into this club, and prove to be the most compassionate, loving people.”
It’s eye opening to see how people who have been disregarded for years and years know exactly how to make someone feel the opposite.