Friday, July 16, 2010

Speical Olympics - Mixed Feelings

The National Special Olympics start today, just 20 miles away from where we live.

When I first found out the National Special Olympics would be in Nebraska over a year ago, I was so excited. I went and signed up on line to be a volunteer right away. I wanted to help out and learn more about the Special Olympics, in case it would be something might want to get Ben involved with in the future.

Now a year later, with the opening ceremonies just hours away, I don't have that same excitement.

First, they lost my on-line volunteer registration. OK. Not a big deal, I just re-registered. I also encouraged others from the DSAF to sign up too, and even called in to have my name put down as being the contact for our group. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. Others reported getting emails, but I did not receive any. I went on-line numerous time, each time having to reset my password and followed all the steps for volunteering. Still I got nothing.  I sent an emails, left phone messages, asking for information, and guessed it, Nothing!

While speaking to others about their experiences with volunteering, I got similar stories of frustration. One person was told that the on-line registration system was not very reliable. Obviously. How can they pull off an event this huge, with out a reliable on line system? I hope for the sake of the athletes, it goes smoothly.

I had also heard, from other parents that there were some hard feelings about how the athletes were chosen to participate in the games. In Nebraska, the athletes were chosen in a lottery system, and not based on performances in the state games. Supposedly one parent, who was upset that their child was not chosen, was told that the National games are about bringing celebrities in and raising money, and are not really about the athletes. Really? I doubt that Eunice Kennedy Schriver would agree with that. Now to be fair, I did not get this information first hand, and am sure it was passed along and modified somewhat along the way, but still.

It does make me wonder, as I see many of the big companies in Lincoln, proudly displaying flags announcing their support of Special Olympics, and encouraging their employees to take paid time off to volunteer. Each taking out ads in the paper to show how much they are supporting the event. Almost as if they are trying to one up each other. Who is this really about?

I don't know yet if the Special Olympics is something we will pursue in the future for Ben. So many have fought for inclusion for our children, and in a way I can see how participation in the Special Olympics might be seen as a step back from that philosophy. I know in my vision of Ben's future, I see him at least playing t-ball and maybe baseball in our small town community, with his peers. It may or may not happen, but I hope it does. Only time will tell.

So here I sit, with nothing to volunteer for. Which is OK, as it now gives me more freedom to view the games as a spectator.  I will still take my boys to the games and Special Olympics Town as long as we can find a place to park. And we will cheer for the athletes. Which after all, is what the Special Olympics should be about.