We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. – Sir Winston Churchill
If, as Churchill says, “we make a life by what we give,” then it’s fair to conclude that our volunteers are “making” quite a life, not only for themselves but for our athletes, our families, other volunteers, and the communities where they live. Consider that in 2016, 6,137 individuals logged 246,834 hours in volunteer time all to support our Special Olympics Maryland athletes. The Independent Sector values volunteer time at $24.14 per hour – which, if you do the math, means that we derive the equivalent of $5,362,884 in valuable service from volunteers.
This spring, over 1,000 student-athletes have been training and competing in our Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Bocce and Track & Field programs (see fact sheets in this issue). The IUS Track & Field program is so big that we need two days to host over 700 athletes – on May 9th and 10th, the State Track & Field Invitational competition will take place at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. On May 18th, over 300 student-athletes will compete in the State Bocce Invitational at Washington College.
In addition to the Interscholastic Unified Sports competitions, we are in the midst of a busy spring schedule of track and field meets, bocce tournaments, swim meets, softball tournaments and cheerleading competitions. On April 29th – 30th, over 300 athletes will compete in swimming, track and field and bocce at the Anne Arundel County Spring Games at the Naval Academy. In total, between April 14th and June 4th, there will be over 50 competition events held prior to our Summer Games at Towson University on June 9th-11th. That translates into roughly 6,000 athlete experiences through these events hosted locally in communities across the state.
I am very proud of our exceptional program staff who dedicate countless hours to planning and delivering high quality sport experiences to our athletes. I also recognize that this is a team effort…we really need volunteers to help us effectively plan and deliver the sport competitions. All of the competitions that I described above will engage and rely on volunteers for success.
We also depend on volunteers to deliver the entire program for our athletes in communities. Volunteers recruit athletes. They secure and schedule facilities for practice and competition. Volunteers coach athletes like Josh Smith, our athlete of the month (featured in this issue), and Patrick Speaker (see related article) who recently returned the World Winter Games in Austria. They raise money to cover program expenses like facilities, uniforms, equipment and transportation to name a few. And of course, they raise awareness to help more people understand who our athletes are while they also recruit other volunteers to help meet the wide range of human resource needs.
We engage volunteers in our Athlete Leadership Program to help train SOMD athletes like Annu Singleton who recently interviewed Tim Shriver and Adam Hays who interviewed Dan Joerres (see video in this issue). Additionally, over the last 18 months, we have increased the number of volunteer interns who are having a very positive impact on the program.
Without question, volunteers play an essential role for our organization. They are critical to the overall success of Special Olympics Maryland. So, as National Volunteer Week comes to a close, I want to express my gratitude. On behalf of all of our 7,549 athletes, I want to thank each and every one of the 6,137 volunteers who make a difference every day. Volunteers like our friends in law enforcement and those at Aerotek who support us throughout the year (see volunteer appreciation article). Together, through sport we continue to create a world where opportunity is not limited by disability.
James C. Schmutz
President & CEO
I’m pictured above looking on as Special Olympics Maryland athlete Patrick Speaker is recognized by the Washington County Board of Commissioners for his accomplishments at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.