Shannon Leonard has been a volunteer with Special Olympics Alberta - Whitecourt for the past three years. Like many other Special Olympics volunteers, she was initially turned onto the organization through her child.
“I discovered Special Olympics after my daughter joined as an athlete in 2008,” she said. “I was drawn by the passion and enthusiasm displayed by the athletes.”
Over the past three years Leonard has taken on a variety of roles within Special Olympics Alberta - Whitecourt, including club contact, head coach, and fundraising administrator. But beyond her duties, Leonard said her passion is providing opportunities for athletes young and old.
“I wanted to give opportunities for self-improvement, including competitive play, that teaches teamwork, sportsmanship and commitment,” she said. “I wanted to offer the physical and emotional benefits from health and fitness.”
Since joining the Special Olympics team, Leonard said all of her initial expectations have been met. She said the community of Whitecourt has been consistently supportive and generous, and the athletes always give their best.
But as much as Leonard gives to Special Olympics, she said she receives ten-fold back from the athletes, who are a constant source of support and joy.
“I always feel appreciated and am amazed at the commitment and drive many of my athletes have,” she said. “I feel great rewards in giving my time and effort. The athletes always teach me more than I teach them.”
“My most memorable Special Olympics moment is watching an athlete receive a medal for the first time. The happiness, pride, and thrill is indescribable.”
Leonard said she would encourage anyone out there who may be thinking about volunteering for Special Olympics to roll up their selves and just do it. She said volunteers quickly reap the benefits by seeing the impact a few hours a week can make in someone’s life, and how hard work and perseverance pay off.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about joining Special Olympics to come out and see firsthand the incredible experience of being part of friends, fitness, and fun,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding feeling to experience success, no matter how big or small, with an individual who has been working hard on improving their skills and abilities. You’ll have so much fun and meet so many incredible people.”