Two Years on the Blog Today!

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Happy second birthday to my blog!

When I started this blog, I was so nervous to have people read my writing that I almost didn’t do it. Even though I still get nervous about it sometimes, I’m glad I started it and created an opportunity for myself to learn more about blogging, writing, and the Olympic Movement. I hope that reading this blog for the past two years has been fun, informative, and inspiring, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Here’s to many more years for the Olympics of Blogs!

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Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

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Happy New Year, everyone! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over. 2016 was a big year for me, the Olympic Movement, and this blog.

Over the year, I celebrated one year of volunteering at Special Olympics; attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN; interviewed Jesse Owens’ daughter, Marlene Rankins Owen, and Matt Stutzman, a Paralympic archer; interned at Special Olympics NYC, Special Olympics Southern California, and LA 2024; volunteered at the Rio 2016 Olympics; presented my senior Honors thesis on introducing Special Olympics’ Unified Sports into the Olympics; and graduated from Pace University! I’m so thankful to have had such a great year, and I’m excited to see where 2017 will take me!

Here are some things I’m excited for in 2017:

  • Starting in January, I’m going to be an Assistant Swim Coach for Special Olympics Pennsylvania!
  • The three grand marshals of the Rose Bowl Parade (which is happening tomorrow) will be Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, and Allyson Felix.
  • I’m presenting my thesis at a conference in Pittsburgh in April!
  • In May, I’ll walk at my graduation!
  • My sister and my best friend are getting married this summer!
  • In September, we’ll finally learn which city will host the 2024 Olympics!
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These three Olympians will be welcoming 2017 at the Rose Bowl Parade tomorrow!

Here’s to a great 2017!

 

Happy Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2016!

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

– Special Olympics Athlete Oath

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote this down on the morning of July 20, 1968, the day of the first Special Olympics International Games. She spoke the oath at the Opening Ceremony, and ever since, Special Olympic athletes have been pledging it at every Special Olympic competition.

Today is the seventh annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day! We celebrate this every year to honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She changed the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities by providing them with a way to train and compete in sports, and she changed the lives of everyone in the world by creating a way for inclusion.

She was a hero in changing the world, and every day, Special Olympics continues on her heroic legacy. By reciting the Athlete Oath 48 years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a movement toward inclusion, and all of the 4.7 million current Special Olympics athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers have continued her effort to create a world that celebrates people’s abilities instead of disabilities. Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for giving the world Special Olympics. ❤

Click on the images below to make them bigger and celebrate EKS Day and Special Olympics with me! 🙂

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

 

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Olympic Day

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To me, every day is Olympic Day (especially when it’s one more day until I leave for Rio!), but Olympic Day is also a day celebrated every June 23 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894. Every year from May 31 to June 30, communities and programs around the United States organize events to celebrate the day. Before my internship at LA 2024, I had never been to one of these events.

On Thursday, June 23, the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee and the LA84 Foundation, which was formed with the profits from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, hosted an Olympic Day celebration in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Over 500 youth in the Los Angeles community came, and after the Opening Ceremony, they were able to learn and play Sitting Volleyball, Volleyball, Archery, Rugby, Soccer, Fencing, Rowing, and Badminton.

The Opening Ceremony, staged in front of the Memorial Coliseum, featured LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman, LA 2024 Vice Chair and Director of Athlete Relations Janet Evans, and LA84 Foundation and CEO Renata Simril. After the Opening Ceremony ended, the cauldron ignited, and a day of Olympic Spirit began.

We started the day off by arranging all of the students into the Olympic rings, which was kind of difficult but very cool. After creating the rings, each group went off to its station to learn the rules of the sport and try it out.

IMG_0686 (1)During the day, I was also able to learn a few new sports. I tried Sitting Volleyball, a Paralympic sport where competitors are only allowed to sit on the ground while playing. This was so much fun! I never enjoyed playing Volleyball in gym, but I really liked this.

I also learned a little Fencing from a very energetic coach. Before this, Fencing always seemed too foreign for me to understand, but she broke down how to play it for me. Although it was really hard (so much to think about!), I enjoyed the little private lesson, and I would like to try Fencing again. I’m really excited to watch Fencing at the Olympics because now I have a little more understanding of the sport and how it feels to do it.

Toward the end of the day, I tried Rowing. Because they weren’t able to bring a place where you could actually row onto the field of the Coliseum, they had rowing machines set up. I had used them before in high school gym class. Now I know what they’re really meant for because the person at that station talked me through what the motions on the machine stimulated in actual Rowing.

This day was really fun, and it made me very excited for the start of my internship. A little less than a year ago, I had been in the stands of the Coliseum watching the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony happen on that same field where I stood on Olympic Day. While watching all of the kids try out different Olympic sports with the cauldron burning above the field, I was really inspired. It felt right for Los Angeles, and it felt right for me. The cauldron of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the place where the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, and Olympic Day began, will hopefully light up at the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, and maybe some of the students from Olympic Day 2016 will be there competing.

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For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs. I leave on Monday!

 

The Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony

When I was interning for Special Olympic NYC last spring, I met Annamaria who was also an intern. In 2004, she attended the Opening Ceremony for the Athens 2004 Olympics with her family. The Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony is one week from today, so I asked her about her experience at the Athens Ceremony 12 years ago.

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Annamaria with her grandpa at the Opening Ceremony

The Olympics of Blogs: How old were you when you watched the Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony?

Annamaria: I was 10 years old.

The Olympics of Blogs: What was your favorite part?

Annamaria: The entire ceremony was amazing, but if I had to choose one part, it was when there were two men beating a drum. One on screen at the site Olympia and one in the stadium. Immediately after this, a flame flew into the Olympic stadium and created the Olympic rings. I remember that being a powerful moment and apparently the drum beats were supposed to represent the beating of the heart.

Here is a video of that moment! Click the link to open it on YouTube!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2atZjcBqs4

The Olympics of Blogs: As someone who is Greek and American, do you think that you experienced the Ceremony differently from people of different nationalities?

Annamaria: I would say for Greek people from Greece and around the world, this Ceremony was very important to them and once in a lifetime. I was very proud to have the Olympic Games back at home in Greece and very grateful that I could experience the Ceremony in person. I also think the Olympics are very important to Americans, and they also have a lot of pride as well. So it was a really special night, experiencing the entire ceremony as both a proud Greek and American. We had both the American and Greek flag with us; this made the whole experience of cheering for the Greek and American athletes really fun! We were cheering for everyone though. The people sitting near us were from different areas around the world, so we were cheering with them too and just having a great time!

The Olympics of Blogs: Could you describe the ceremony?

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Annamaria: The entire ceremony felt surreal. I was sad when it ended because I didn’t want it to end! It was a very well put together ceremony and very symbolic, which ties in with the importance of symbolism and philosophy in Greek history and culture. A large portion of the ceremony was the procession of the history of Greece until modern day. It was so beautiful to watch. A moment that stuck out to me the most was when the athletes from Iraq walked out. The entire stadium started cheering very loud for them to support them, given the political tensions that were happening around the world at that time. It really proves how the Olympics can be unifying and bring peace during times of political division in the world. Overall, the entire ceremony was beautiful and well put together. The feeling in the stadium was full of happiness, excitement, and pride from everyone.
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I’m still working on trying to get Opening Ceremony tickets of my own! We’ll see how that goes as we get closer to August 5. Only 7 days to go until the 2016 Rio Opening Ceremony.

For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs.

Special Olympics Southern California’s Summer Games

IMG_0489Special Olympics Southern California’s Summer Games were held June 11-12. These were the fifth Special Olympics Games I had been to, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. With my internship at SOSC, I was able to work behind the scenes and definitely had a different perspective from the other Games I’ve attended.

The entire week before was very fast-paced, and everyone in the department worked really hard. There was so much to do! There was a very strong sense of team in my department and in the entire organization. I was impressed by something called the Dog Pound where we had lunch and dinner every day after Wednesday. The volunteers of the Dog Pound were so close-knit and so passionate about Special Olympics. Some of the volunteers no longer lived in Southern California, but they still came back every year just for this! Some even had volunteered at the Summer Games for over 40 years!

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We were primarily stationed in Games HQ, which was in the pyramid on campus (Cal State Long Beach has a giant blue pyramid!). During the Games, people came here with questions, problems, and for lost and found.

Saturday started with the Opening Ceremony. They kept it short and very athlete-centered. All of the delegations filed in, and then there were speeches from various important people involved in the Games (like Bill Shumard, the CEO of SOSC). Additionally, two of the stars of Born This Way, a reality tv show on A&E about people with Down Syndrome who live in Southern California, were there and spoke. This was cool because I’ve seen this show! The two who spoke were Sean, a Special Olympics golfer, and Carly, a swimmer (she’ll be on the show next season). I also met Carly later that day! She was really awesome to talk to, and I’m excited to see her on the show!

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On Saturday, I was able to shadow the Director of Competitions, and she gave me tips on IMG_0404how to properly manage large competitions like the Summer Games. We went to each venue to make sure everything was going well and to see if they needed help. In addition to the tips, this was really cool and helpful because I had never seen the inner workings of a Summer Games.

The Athlete Dance was Saturday night, and I went with a few other people to see what it was like. It was held in the Student Union, which was so big, and it even had a bowling alley inside! Athletes could choose to bowl, play pool, or dance. There was even a DJ and a live band for them to choose from. I danced a little with one of the athletes, and it was a lot of fun!

Sunday was a little more relaxed, and we were able to attend many of the competitions. I saw Rhythmic Gymnastics, Bocce, Athletics, the Festival, Unified Bocce, Basketball, and Aquatics! This was a really fun day because there wasn’t a lot left for us to do, so we were able to enjoy everything we had done to make the Games happen.

All in all, it was a really great learning experience for me. Special Olympics Southern California has one of the best Summer Games in the country, and I’m really grateful that I was able to work to make them happen with the SOSC Sports and Programs team!

After the Summer Games, my internship ended, and I got another internship at the LA 2024 Olympic Bidding Committee (see this blog post for information about the LA 2024 bid)!!! This past Thursday, we had an Olympic Day celebration at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, so check back here in the upcoming week for a blog post about it!

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From SONY to SOSC

May 13 was my last day at Special Olympics New York City. I was really sad to leave because the employees and athletes had become my family. I will definitely volunteer with them again in the fall because interning at Special Olympics NYC changed my life. I started out very quiet but determined to be a good intern, and I ended as a super intern with a really strong passion for Special Olympics!

IMG_2151.jpgHere is a look back at my five favorite parts of interning at Special Olympics NYC:

  1. Fall State Games

This was my first State Games as an intern, and I really enjoyed it! It was different from my first New York State Games because I actually knew a lot of the staff and the athletes, and I was there with my friends/co-workers from Special Olympics NYC, Amy, Kaitlin, Sam, and Bill. I was stationed at Equestrian, which was so much fun to see. Before that, I had never seen Special Olympics Equestrian because NYC doesn’t have it. All in all, it was a magical experience. Seeing the love Special Olympics athletes have for their sports while they’re competing makes me so happy, and that love was definitely there all day.

Here’s my blog post about the Fall State Games:    https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/special-olympics-new-york-fall-state-games/

2. Metro Tournament

This was my first Special Olympics NYC competition, and it took place May 30, 2015, right after I started my internship. This day was so exciting, and it gave me a really good look into Special Olympics. I met some awesome athletes, including three athletes who ran the Flame of Hope in with Law Enforcement officers, Valerie (who won a gold medal at the National Games), Thomas (who would compete at the World Games later in the summer), and Doug (Thomas’ dad and also a fierce Special Olympics competitor). I took photos throughout the day, and being given free reign to wander around the competition allowed me to fully immerse myself in Special Olympics. My favorite event was the Powerlifting because each Powerlifter competed with a different persona (see the photo below of the Skullcrusher).

Here’s my blog post about the Metro Tournament:    https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/countdown-to-the-world-games-day-3/

3. Halloween!

Although this wasn’t an official Special Olympics event, it still is one of my favorite moments while working at Special Olympics New York. Luckily Halloween fell on a Friday, so I was able to celebrate it while at the office! The day contained a lot of eating, sugar highs, scaring people with masks, and a piñata! It was a really fun day spent being with my Special Olympics family. ❤

4. Winter State Games

These Games had some of the best competition that I’ve seen since I’ve started working for Special Olympics. Thanks to a really nice volunteer photographer, I was able to see Cross-Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Snowshoe, and Figure Skating, in addition to watching the Opening Ceremony and dancing in the Closing Ceremony! Watching the skiing and snowshoe competitions was really fun because I have no background in those sports. I had never even watched someone ski in real life before! Of course, the Figure Skating was still my favorite. I love watching the athletes play to the audience and seeing the audience react with cheers and applause.

Here’s my blog post about the 2016 Winter State Games: https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/the-2016-winter-state-games/

5. Anytime with Special Olympics Athletes

Special Olympics athletes are some of the best people I know. After a year at Special Olympics New York, I know how hard they work to accomplish everything they do, and it’s really amazing and inspiring.

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It has been an incredible year at Special Olympics New York City. Last summer, I said I pass the flame for happiness, and Special Olympics does mean happiness for me.  Even though I left Special Olympics New York, I’m carrying that flame of happiness with me to my internship at Special Olympics Southern California this summer. Thank you to everyone who made Special Olympics New York special. 🙂

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Special Olympics New York’s Fall State Games!

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Sam, Amy, Me, and Kaitlin

Special Olympics New York’s Fall State Games were October 16 and 17 in Glens Falls, NY. While there, I spent all of my time with my Special Olympics family (pictured to the left). Together, we took in the beauty of Lake George and the Adirondack Mountains and helped our athletes achieve gold. It was an amazing weekend!

I drove up with the Development Team to Glens Falls, and it was a really fun road trip! We went apple picking, and it was refreshing to take our time along the way. We talked a lot, and I’m so happy that I work with all of them.

Opening Ceremony started at 8 pm on that Friday, and we made it in time to see the athletes at the Olympic Village. It looked like a pretty awesome party! I was so happy I could say hi to some of the athletes I met at other competitions.

Almost 1000 athletes from all over the state came to Glens Falls to compete in a variety of sports. There was Unified Golf, Cross Country, Equestrian, Bocce, Soccer, and Softball. Every single one of those athletes, regardless of region or sport, was extremely excited for the Opening Ceremony to begin!

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Some NYC athletes during the Opening Ceremony

IMG_7705The Opening Ceremony featured a parade of athletes, two dance teams, a Broadway singer, speeches, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Watching people run the torch in and light the cauldron definitely builds the excitement in the room, and that’s why the Torch Run is always one of my favorite parts of Opening Ceremonies. After the Torch Run, the Games were declared open!

The next morning, Kaitlin and I had to be up extremely early for Equestrian. I was really excited because I love horses, and I also love Special Olympics competitions. Definitely, Equestrian did not disappoint. In the morning, athletes competed in English riding, and in the afternoon, they competed in Western. When they weren’t competing, they just had fun together.

Here are some photos from the event:

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These two best friends were so happy to each win a gold and a silver medal!

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She decided to start interviewing her friends with Channel 6’s microphone!

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This mini pony was named Bolt!

Last weekend was spent doing what I love with people I love. It was a magical experience that makes me look forward to the next State Games in February. 🙂

Interning at a Nonprofit

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In addition to being an Olympics blog, I also want to talk about interning at nonprofits. Currently, I intern at Special Olympics New York, and I love it. I know that it’s what I want to do when I graduate, so that makes everything worth it. Sure, I do feel burned out sometimes. It’s normal when one does a lot of work without being paid. However, someone once told me that unpaid internships pay in experience, and especially at Special Olympics New York, it’s true. I have learned so much that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a class while doing something I love and for my future career. I will be staying on at Special Olympics New York until December.

At first glance, interning at nonprofits seems to be a tough sell because they are almost always unpaid. Most nonprofits unfortunately do not budget to pay their interns. It makes sense that nonprofits want to keep as much of their funding for the people they help, but it is still a huge problem because not everyone can afford to work for free. I’m interning and doing another job, but I wish I could afford to intern all the time. Interning is one of the most important things for someone concerned about his or her career to do.

Recently, I figured out how many hours I spent interning at my previous internship and how many I would have by the end of the summer. It was startling. At my previous internship at YAI Network (which I had for a year), I interned approximately 26,500 hours. By the end of this summer at Special Olympics New York, I’ll have interned or volunteered 70 hours. That’s a lot of unpaid labor, so why did I do it?

Pluses of Interning at a Nonprofit (in no particular order)

1. You are integral for an organization to accomplish its mission. You should choose a nonprofit that has a mission which you are passionate about. While working there, you will feel like you are making a difference, and you will be. The organization couldn’t help the people it serves without you.

2. All interning experience counts as real world experience, so it will stay on your resume long after you have to take your college experience off. Eventually, employers won’t be looking for who was president of what club, but they will always be looking for someone who has experience working in the field.

3. You can’t learn everything from class. Even though I’m a Nonprofit Studies minor, I have learned so many things at Special Olympics New York that I would never be able to learn in class. I get to learn by actually doing something, whether it is writing a grant proposal or researching possible sponsors or interacting with the athletes.

4. You get to start working on your career while you’re still in school, and while you can afford to be unpaid. More and more, internships are becoming vital to anyone interested in entering the nonprofit field. Employers look for experience over anything else. Because of this, it’s important that you get that experience while you can, so you don’t have to do it after you graduate.

5. It’s fun to escape college sometimes. I love my college, and I love my college friends, but sometimes, you need a break. You just need to leave the building and do something outside of your school. Interning at a nonprofit could be that something. It will make a difference to you to intern where you are making a difference for someone else.

I have used some nonprofit websites to find internships or places to volunteer like idealist.org and The Foundation Center, but the best things to rely on during your search are word of mouth and Google. Use your contacts! I got my first internship at YAI Network because my sister’s friend was temping there. I got my internship at Special Olympics New York by Googling Special Olympics New York City, going to its website, and emailing the person in the department I wanted to work in. Before interning, the best thing to do is to try out the organization beforehand by volunteering. Then you can see how the organization is from the inside with very little pressure.

Good luck interning or volunteering!

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