R+W Monthly Feature: Special Olympics Missouri

The motto of Special Olympics is about finding the courage to give it all you’ve got. “Giving it all you’ve got,” may be going to an event for the 1st time, swimming across a pool, running to 2nd base, or having the courage to ask a friend to dance at the State games. Special Olympics nurtures athletes & shows them there’s an abundance of caring coaches & other volunteers who will support & challenge them in their efforts to give it all.
— Isabel Hodge, 2014

Before meeting my husband, I was peripherally aware of Special Olympics, but had no sense of connection or even need to learn more. My husband, on the other hand, had been volunteering with them and taking the Polar Plunge to raise donations since high school. When he encouraged me to join him and a few of our colleagues through company-sponsored volunteerism, I mostly agreed for the opportunity to network. I never expected the experience to change my life or open my eyes to an amazing group of people (I hadn't realized I'd closed myself off, to begin with!).

The athletes themselves are incredibly enthusiastic and warm, and the volunteers and coaches are just the same. The first time I volunteered at FanQuest in McLean, VA, I didn't want the evening to end. The basketball game, the dance, the cheering, the races... it was all incredibly fun and I experienced the genuine connection and enrichment. I even ran a race partnered with one of the athletes, and he was bubbling with competitive enthusiasm as we strategized beforehand, but was wonderfully gracious when I kind of ruined it for us (I totally fell in front of thousands of people - I really wish I had a picture to share).

All this to say, this organization is amazing and really changing lives. If it could open my eyes and heart and give me such a wonderful experience, I can only imagine how endlessly beneficial it is to the actual athletes and their families and communities. 

I chose the Special Olympics motto to carve and print because it's a great reminder for all of us to give it our all every day, no matter the obstacles. I will be donating 100% of the profit from the print and 10% of general revenue to Special Olympics Missouri at the end of the month. I also encourage you to look up your local events, whether it's volunteering at games or taking the Polar Plunge. You won't regret it!

If you are interested in learning more or donating directly, please visit  Special Olympics or Special Olympics Missouri.

Aftyn Shah