Over 300 Eastern students to volunteer at Special Olympics

Makayla Digan, Contributing Writer

 Over 300 Eastern students are set to volunteer at this year’s Special Olympics, scheduled to begin 7 a.m. Friday at O’Brien Stadium.

 Eastern has been hosting the Area 9 Special Olympics for 36 years now, though it was canceled last year because of rain.

“It is always a very special day,” said Kathlene Shank, the chair of the special education department.

Shank said Special Olympics is a day of celebration, when individuals with disabilities compete in varying events.

Its motto is “Let me win, if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.”

Cole Hoover, a sophomore special education major, will be participating in Special Olympics for his second year in a row.

“The athletes have different races, wheelchair and running,” Hoover said. “There’s a softball throw and a broad jump. I usually do the softball throw.”

For athletes, there is always a sense of ‘new’ when it comes to the Special Olympics, Shank said.

“Some compete in events that they have not attempted before. Some win, or get a second or third, when they have not finished this high before,” Shank said. “For the athletes, each Special Olympics is a ‘new’ special day.”

This year, Eastern has 323 students who have volunteered to help out at the Special Olympics.

Some sports teams have volunteered as well.

“Students from many differing majors from across the university are joining special education majors and other education majors to make this a special day,” Shank said.

Liz McPherson, a senior special education major and co-chair of volunteers, said her favorite part of the Special Olympics is the feeling she gets walking in.

“The stadium is filled with hundreds of volunteers, families, coaches and students who are all there for one reason: the athletes,” McPherson said.

McPherson said there has been a lot of community support for the Special Olympics.

“The community involvement of EIU and Coles County is the reason why organizations like this are so strong,” McPherson said. “Without community support, there would be no event.”

Makayla Digan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].