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Community Impact

Mom of Special Olympics Germany Athlete Inspires 45+ People to Volunteer and Work at Special Olympics World Games in Berlin

Schwarz family standing together side-by-side for a family photo.
Sabine Schwarz’ family all volunteering and working at Special Olympics World Games (L-to-R) Hans, Antje, Svenya, Maike, and Sabine.

Watching and listening to Sabine Schwarz of Königstein in Taunus, Germany, it’s easy to see that her passion and enthusiasm for Special Olympics is contagious and inspiring. But few people can say they are single-handedly responsible for more than 45 people volunteering and working at Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. Sabine Schwarz did that! Schwarz works as a German teacher and Middle School and Varsity Head Coach for Track & Field at Franklin International School (FIS) in Oberursel, near Frankfurt. She enlisted 26 students from FIS – 15 of them from the 10th grade and 11 from the 11th grade, along with 4 teachers to join her to volunteer at the Open Water Swimming and Kayaking venue at Berlin-Grünau.

“My school has been so supportive of me and our team of volunteers. The school paid for our bus transportation to the Games and our local transport. This experience was life-changing for these students. I hope the students who came here gain a bigger sensibility about not judging people and accepting of all their abilities, and I want them to take the experiences from the World Games home with them into their communities.”
Sabine Schwarz, mother of Special Olympics Germany distance runner Svenja Schwarz

Svenja Schwarz, Sabine’s daughter, has many accomplishments in Special Olympics Germany in the state of Hessen. She is a local German celebrity with Special Olympics because she ran the 1500-meter and the 500-meter races in Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi and won gold in both competitions. You can see and listen to Svenja’s story in her own words at this link Svenja Schwarz "Meet The Determined" @ Special Olympics Hessen (below). Svenja was not selected to compete in the World Games in Berlin. Sabine said Svenja was disappointed, but she understood that others needed to have a chance to compete. Still, Svenja wanted to participate at the World Games, so Sabine encouraged her to volunteer at the Games and Svenja landed as a volunteer at Rhythmic Gymnastics. Sabine and Svenja also helped with the Frankfurt Host Town and Svenja carried the torch as part of the Torch Run in Frankfurt prior to the Games’ start. Sabine’s husband, Hans, volunteered to help ensure Svenja got where she needed to be during the Games. The need to be involved in the World Games in Berlin quickly spread through the rest of Sabine’s family. Her daughter, Antje Schwarz actually took a job with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) in Berlin to manage day-to-day activities of the Games. Sabine’s other daughter, Maike Schwarz is a professional photographer in Amsterdam, and she volunteered to be part of the media covering the Games. Other volunteers who got involved because of Sabine include Antje’s partner, Fabian Otto, and his sister, Alicia Otto, Maike’s partner Hugo Doorenbos, Svenja’s partner Martin Meißner, her cousin, Lara Stärr, and two of their friends, Thomas Wolter, volunteered to be the Venue Manager at the Equestrian venue and his wife, Michaela volunteered at the Athletics venue at Olympiapark.

Svenja Schwarz" MeetTheDetermined "@ Special Olympics Hessen
A film how running and inclusion has impacted the life of an athlete with mental deficiencies.

Two of Sabine’s student volunteers from the Franklin International School enthusiastically greeted spectators at the Open Water Swimming and Kayaking venue and helped direct them to the competition activities. They both said they are “Embassy Kids” who between them had 17 moves though 16 countries, and had attended 14 schools before landing at FIS, but neither had ever experienced something like the magnitude of Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.

“It’s really incredible to be here,” said Lola Perez, 11th grade volunteer from Franklin International School, “It’s great to see inclusion happening in so many different ways and it’s been so much fun seeing the athletes competing. It’s amazing to see how you can expand your knowledge and how we see the world. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience.”

“It doesn’t feel real, we just signed up and here we are helping so many people,” said Ellie Choi, 11th grade volunteer from Franklin International School, “The message of inclusion is altering our minds and showing us so many ways to include people. Our school is diverse, but this really expands our bubble. It’s so exciting, I hope I get to volunteer again for Special Olympics.”

The student volunteers aren’t the only ones who have been touched by their experience. Math teacher, Justin Draft agreed to sign up at Sabine’s urging. “The emotions—the pure joy from the athletes and their families was unbelievable,” said Draft, “Several times I had to stop working because I ran out of tissues. I really enjoyed being involved in the award ceremonies. This is where we got to know the athletes and have real connections. I was also part of the transport team for the athletes. We developed some meaningful friendships. To know how hard they’ve worked to achieve their goals, I feel privileged to witness this.”

As a coach and also a Special Olympics coach, Sabine is always encouraging athletes to do their best. She stopped the interview to cheer for the athletes taking part in the Open Water Swimming competition. Her cheers were among the loudest at the waters edge and Sabine was quick with massive hugs and ear-to-ear smiles for the athletes as they finished their grueling open water races.

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When talking about the impact she and Svenja’s influence has had on getting so many people involved with Special Olympics World Games, Sabine enthusiastically gushed, “I am so proud of my daughters, their partners, our family, and friends for getting so completely involved in the movement,” said Schwarz, “Maike saw Timothy Shriver the other day at the World Games and told him how Special Olympics has changed our lives.”

And no doubt, Sabine’s love, joy, dedication, and determination to make a difference in the world is changing lives, too. Just imagine the ripple effect her that her influence has had on the 45+ people she directly encouraged to be involved in Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. It’s a powerful reminder that one person can do amazing things in this world when we open our hearts, expand our minds, and commit to touching souls by embracing inclusion. World Games end, but this truth endures. Well done, Sabine!

Thirty-one volunteers from the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 stand and sit for a group photo outside.
Sabine Schwarz (3rd from the right in back row) is responsible for inspiring 45+ Volunteers to work and volunteer for Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. Thirty-one of the volunteers included 26 students (15 – 11th graders and 11 – 10th graders) and 5 teachers from the Franklin International School in Oberursel, Germany who all volunteered at the Open Swimming and Kayaking venue at Berlin-Grünau.

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