Trading Tuesday: Austria 2017

unnamedThis pin is the perfect choice for this week’s Trading Tuesday because I just made it today! Currently, I’m volunteering at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. This pin is awesome because I ❤ Special Olympics, and it’s really cool to have my picture on a pin!

I have been having a wonderful time meeting athletes, fans, and volunteers from around the world. People are completely open with friendship, and they are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So many people have helped me since I’ve come here and gone out of their way to do so. I think everyone recognizes that we are here for the athletes. This is their time, and by making sure the focus is on them, the athletes’ happiness, kindness, and openness is able inspire everyone else. I know I belong within the Special Olympics community because it is one huge, international family, and these Games have confirmed that. Even if people have different abilities, languages, races, or religions, Special Olympics proves that everyone can come together and find similarities.

Saturday night was the Opening Ceremony in Schladming, and I’m so happy I was able to go. It was so beautiful. The entire ceremony focused on the athletes as the stars. Even though it was pouring and bitterly cold the entire time, the stands were completely filled, and it didn’t stop people from cheering for each country as it paraded out into the stadium.

In Messe Graz, the place where Floor Hockey and Floor Ball are located and where I’m volunteering, there is a Coca Cola station where you can take a picture holding a Special Olympics pillow, and then have it made into a pin. Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the Games, and they had such a cool idea with these pins.

My last day volunteering is on Thursday. So far, I’ve been working in the cafeteria where athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers eat, but tomorrow and Thursday, I’m volunteering for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP).

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Go Team USA! Go Special Olympics!

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The Austria 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games

2017WorldGamesAustrialogoStarting with the Opening Ceremony on March 18, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Graz, Austria! The Flame of Hope has already been lit and has started traveling on its way to Austria. The sports of these Games will be Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowshoeing, Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing, Snowboarding, and Stick Shooting. Special Olympics New York City’s Unified Floor Hockey team and two of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s speed skaters will be competing!

ESPN will be airing live coverage of the Games. Here is the schedule. I’ll be volunteering at the Games and will be at the Opening Ceremony, so make sure to look for me!

Saturday, March 18, 2-5 pm EST, ABC – Live: Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 Opening Ceremony

Sunday, March 19, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Coverage of the Games

Monday, March 20, 6-6:30 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Tuesday, March 21, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Wednesday, March 22, 6-7 pm ESt, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Thursday, March 23, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Friday, March 24, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Sunday, March 26, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 – Best of the Games

The 2016 Winter State Games

One of the things that makes me happiest is Special Olympics competitions. I love supporting the athletes, and I love watching them win. This past weekend at Special Olympics New York’s Winter State Games, I was able to do just that, which probably explains why I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the Games.

Special Olympics New York’s Winter State Games, one of three state competitions where athletes from around New York qualify to compete, was held February 19 and 20 in Poughkeepsie, New York. The town of Poughkeepsie was an amazing host and even put up Special Olympics New York flags around the town and featured our athletes on the front page of the newspaper.

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The Games started with an Opening Ceremony in the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. The amount of love and support inside of the Civic Center was astounding. The stands were completely filled, the lines of volunteers cheering and high fiving athletes during the Parade of Athletes were tireless and loud, and the speeches were heartfelt. Many people from the community who had done a lot of work planning the Games spoke, as well as Thomas Adimari, the Hudson Valley athlete who competed in Tennis at the World Games. After the speeches and the Athletes’ Oath, it was time for the torch to be run in.

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IMG_8710At every State Games, law enforcement officers run alongside an athlete carrying the Flame of Hope. Together, they light the cauldron together. This is always my favorite part, and this time definitely didn’t disappoint.

The next day, I was able to go to two different venues, thanks to one of my friends who is a very good Special Olympics volunteer photographer. First, we went to Holiday Mountain, where the Cross-Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, and Snowshoe took place.

IMG_8755Because there wasn’t enough snow, the Cross-Country Skiing competition was held on a field that was packed with snow. Volunteers had marked lanes for each skier to go down. It was really fun to watch! I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the competition was very fast-paced with a lot of volunteers cheering the athletes. Snowshoe was held on the same course, but it was later in the day.

While at Holiday Mountain, I also watched Alpine Skiing. The athletes skied down the hill and had to go around gates. It looked like the slalom event in the Olympics.

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After skiing, we traveled to the Figure Skating, which I was very happy to see. Many of the skaters who I saw at last year’s State Games were there, so it was cool to recognize them and to know some of their names. While watching the skaters, I got chills because their routines were all so beautiful, and I could tell that they put their hearts and souls into everything they did on the ice. All of the skaters had fun routines. One of my favorite routines was a skater who dressed like Charlie Brown and skated to Linus and Lucy’s theme. There was also someone who performed to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and another skater who skated to a song from Grease and dressed like a Pink Lady.

Then, around 8 pm, Closing Ceremony or the Victory Dance was held. I missed this last year, so this was a new experience for me. Basically, all of the athletes and a lot of the staff and coaches let loose and dance together. The athletes wear their medals and celebrate their accomplishments. Although we were all very tired by that time, we had fun. And then, the Winter Games were over for another year, and everyone went home happier than they had been. Athletes had more medals to celebrate and add to their collection, volunteers had new experiences to cherish, and I had another memory to add to my Special Olympics journey.

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Some of the athletes at the Closing Ceremony