Ask Cathy Morris of Redwood Falls what the best thing about volunteering for Special Olympics is, and she’ll say, “Just the smiles on the athletes’ faces. When they get a ribbon, they don’t care if it’s for first, second, or third place.”
“When the athletes are with their peers, they get that acceptance they might not get other places.”
Morris first volunteered for the local Special Olympics seven years ago.
She was working as a nurse at a local nursing home, and heard from a friend the local Special Olympics teams needed volunteers.
Morris already knew Special Olympics Minnesota provided sports training and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and decided to help out.
Flash forward to today: Morris currently supervises nearly 700 Special Olympics athletes spread across southwest Minnesota.
“I’m the Area 8 and Area 6 Administration Coordinator, and head of delegation for Redwood Falls,” she said last week.
It takes up around 15 hours a week for her, all unpaid.
Currently, the Redwood area has Special Olympics teams in track and field, volleyball, tennis, softball, bowling, flag football, basketball, weightlifting, and bocce ball.
“I visit any team that may be having troubles, and walk the coaches through the steps,” Morris said.
The most difficult, and constant, part of her volunteering is fundraising.
“The toughest part is finding the funding to visit the places we want to,” Morris said. “Last year the summer games were held in Stillwater. We couldn’t afford the $1,000 for hotels, so we had to leave at five in the morning.
“Then we had to have $500 when we got there to register the coaches and athletes. The money is the hardest part. That’s why we constantly have to have fundraisers.”
For her efforts, last weekend Morris was presented with Special Olympics Minnesota’s Outstanding Spirit Award for 2013 during Special Olympics Minnesota’s annual banquet, held at Treasure Island Resort in Welch.
Said a Special Olympics Minnesota statement, “Her positive attitude and drive to provide athletes opportunities to showcase their abilities have created premiere teams.
“She has also successfully implemented the first Young Athletes program in Redwood Falls area schools. More than 70 children with and without intellectual disabilities participated over an eight week period.
“Cathy is always prepared to take on projects that will benefit Special Olympics. She has a talent for getting others involved in Special Olympics Minnesota, whether it’s volunteering, coaching, competing, or cheering.”
What does Morris ask of her athletes that she wouldn’t ask of herself?
Page 2 of 2 - “We only ask them to do their best, “ she said.