Special Olympics are truly special

It’s the little things you notice — the constant smiles and upbeat personalities.

The word  ‘special’ is tossed around quite freely. We have special friends, special clothes, special occasions or special foods. There are special places we like to vacation and special memories that bring smiles. Special refers to something that is distinct, superior, or something we hold in particular esteem with great affection.

As I write this, I am physically, mentally and emotionally spent because of a very special weekend hosting hundreds of Special Olympians from around the province and the Yukon at the Special Olympics Summer Games held in Langley.

I have not yet learned to say no and I took on  the role of logistics director. Along with 30 amazing volunteers, we set up the venues, we kept things moving for three days and we took it all apart again. I met some very special people, whom I will work alongside at many future events I’m sure. We were able to assist whenever and wherever we were needed, as a small part of a large, special team.

Close to 1,200 Langley people put their hands up to marshal at track events, keep score, line fields, entertain athletes and coaches or prepare and serve 15,000 meals over a three-day period. So what did we get in return?

We got to meet over 1,100 amazing people who came to give their best. They leave nothing on the benches or the sidelines. We met an athlete who ran 100 meters in 11 seconds. In the same race, there was a competitor who could do little more than walk the same distance. But her fist pump as she crossed the finish line was the same, and the roar from the crowd and the other competitors was deafening by the time she finished.

We watched the Langley softball team with two out in the bottom of the final inning, down 12-3, come back to win 13-12. If there has ever been a more exciting softball game at McLeod Athletic Park, I would be surprised. The tears from the players and spectators flowed freely, as both teams exchanged hugs and handshakes at the end.

It’s the little things you notice — the constant smiles and upbeat personalities. My hands are sore from the firm shakes and the high fives. I can’t recall the number of times I was addressed as ‘Sir’ or heard ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Their respect for their fellow athletes, coaches, fans and the facilities is exemplary.

The facilities manager at McLeod Stadium noted that after a local football game, it usually takes over three hours to clean the grandstands alone. With this special group, it only took half that time to clean the stands, washrooms and bleachers. There was little or nothing to pick up.

A longtime Langley master bowler was part of the five-pin competition. She remarked that not only was the level of bowling exceptional, the lane etiquette was the best she had ever seen. Very special indeed.

The chair of the Langley Games Organizing Committee, Arne Olson, summed it up in his opening and closing remarks. “These athletes have been told over and over again what they can’t do. Special Olympics shows them they can do anything they want. As I looked over the athletes at the opening ceremonies and the closing night dance, I realized I was looking at a painting from God’s palette.”

What special painter He is. At least that’s what McGregor says.