Volunteer Talks About the Young Athlete He'll Never Forget

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One of my college professors was searching for student volunteers for a Special Olympics event to take place the next Saturday. As the sign up sheet went up and down the aisles I started to come up with excuses for not volunteering. Maybe it was the distance to the college where the event was to take place, or the early time volunteers had to report for duty (early time, that is, for an occasionally lazy college kid).

Whatever the reason that made me hesitate, I am so thankful to this day that it did not keep me from volunteering. If I missed this event then I would have missed one of the most unforgettable moments that I have ever witnessed. An event that I unashamedly admit changed the way I live my life.

I arrived at the college bright and early and reported to the volunteer tent. My assignment was simple, I was to stand at the finish line and wait until the event was over, and then take the results to the announcing booth. While standing at the finish line, I was able to witness many amazing efforts and close races. I was most impressed by the effort each athlete gave in their event.

What also impressed me was the sincere joy each athlete expressed while participating. Sometimes the sheer joy of participating in a sporting event can get lost in the intense competition of winning and losing.

Then a miraculous moment happened right before my eyes, a group of athletes were lined up to run a short sprint. My eyes were captured by one of the athletes in a wheelchair, a little girl with a huge smile wearing bright bows in her hair. Her smile filled the stadium that day. I couldn’t help but smile back at her. The runners were ready and the gun sounded. They were off. Each runner sped up the track with all their might.

My eyes searched for the little girl with the bright bows. There she was pumping her arms with every ounce of energy she had. My eyes were now riveted to her every move. She was having difficulty getting her wheelchair to move smoothly down the lane. I did notice that this brave athlete happened to be the only competitor in a wheelchair. But there she pumped. And pumped. Her efforts were getting little result. But that did not stop her.

The other athletes were now finished with the race. I noticed as she got closer that she also had an injured arm. But that did not stop this bright star in the day. The race was long over but this athlete kept pumping. The crowd of spectators focused on her. They started to cheer passionately for this amazing athlete. That made the little girl pump even harder. As she neared the finish line the roar of the crowd was thunderous. There I stood cheering with tears falling down my cheeks and chills going up my spine. I wish you could have been there to hear the roar as she passed the finish line.

After all these years, my ears can still hear the echoes of those cheers. I wish I could thank that remarkable athlete for what her efforts taught this unmotivated college guy. I grew up a lot that day because of the tenacity and effort of that little girl in the wheelchair. I don’t even know her name, but the memory of her effort has stayed with me.

I was reminded that day of a verse from the Bible found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It states, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might.” God reminded me that I wasn’t making the most of the abilities and talents He had so graciously bestowed upon me. Whenever I get that lazy bug that buzzes in and out of my life, God brings to mind this heroic athlete with the bows in her hair and the joy in her heart.