Special Olympics bring fun, fulfillment

Sarah McIndoe, Staff Reporter

The Fauquier Special Olympics held its track and field competition at Falcon Field on April 20. The Special Olympics strives to bring mentally disabled children, teens, and adults together with members of their community.
“It definitely brings the community together,” said Neil Rossmeissl, who coordinates the event for Fauquier County. “People want to participate and enjoy the excitement and challenges faced by the athletes. They understand there are not many opportunities for the athletes to participate in team sports.”
The Special Olympics runs almost solely on volunteers, and it is becoming more difficult to find people who can make the time commitment to coach a sport. People can volunteer online at http://www.specialolympicsva.org.
“We had 155 volunteers last year [and probably] a similar number this year,” Rossmeissl said. “The biggest change is the number of volunteers willing to give large amounts of time to make the program a success. Many people are willing to give up a day or two, but not the weeks and months of continued commitment needed. When I started to coach in 1996, we had a larger involvement, and most of us were in our 40s. Now all of us are much older, and we are having a tough time getting younger volunteers.”
Members from Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and NHS volunteered at the event to record times, cheer on participants, and get them water. Students who volunteer gain a better perspective on those with mental disabilities and learn how to help them.
“I wanted to volunteer because I like helping people with special needs, and while volunteering I gained more respect for what they have to go through everyday,” said junior John Putnam, a member of FCCLA.
Junior and vice president of FCCLA Jake Budd was inspired by the challenges some of the athletes face and their determination to meet them.
“I realized how hard they tried over the weekend and thought that we all take for granted what we can do so easily, like walking and talking,” Budd said. “They can’t do that without constant practice and work.”