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Students volunteer with Special Olympics

College students swim alongside people with intellectual disabilities

Grant County Special Olympics participant practices in the swimming pool.

By Kamryn Koble | Echo

Each week students from the universities in Grant County volunteer with Special Olympics, where they swim alongside athletes whose different circumstances give them unique stories and experiences.

“Grant County Special Olympics is a not-for-profit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in eleven Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” the program’s website states.

At Taylor, sophomore Maddy Martinson is the director of Special Olympics and organizes student involvement. She values the ministry for its ability to interact, encourage and build relationships.

Every Wednesday, Martinson drives a carpool to neighboring Indiana Wesleyan University for the weekly swim. Although, there’s plenty of room in the Taylor vans for other students who are interested in impacting people from all walks of life.

She’s inspired by the way these athletes are full of energy and joy regardless of circumstance and finds beauty in the way their lives differ from the students at Taylor.

“It’s a way for me to empower these people and to show them that they are loved and that they can do anything that they set their minds to,” Martinson said. “It’s affected me, seeing the joy that they see.”

This volunteer opportunity is an excellent fit for students who are passionate about people, building relationships and challenging themselves. Even if the ministry involves athletics, it can be a chance for any person to step outside of their comfort zone for a worthy cause. Special Olympics also offers another way for students to connect with the Grant County community beyond Taylor.

In addition to the weekly ministry, Special Olympics is also sponsoring the annual event “Take it to the Hoop.” This year’s all-day basketball tournament takes place on March 2. The various volunteer opportunities include serving as a referee, timekeeper and a skills challenge facilitator for athletes who are unable to play in a game but want to participate.

Better yet, “Take it to the Hoop” takes place in Taylor’s Kesler Students Activities Center. Students are able to walk over to spectate as well as take on a leadership role.

Senior Sydnee Piercefield has served as a team host for three years.  Especially as a special education major, Piercefield finds similar events to be extremely important.

“It is an opportunity for Taylor to make these kids feel special and important. For a lot of the teams, activities like this are their lives. It’s a way for them to get involved and live a “normal” life,” said Piercefield. “It serves as a bright spot for them, and I think it’s so important that the community steps in alongside them. It really is heaven on earth.”

If you’re interested in more information for the weekly Special Olympics swim or the “Take it to the Hoop” event, email for more information.

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