Of all things, Ron Schmidt realized how special it was to volunteer with Special Olympics Alberta through a dance floor.
As Schmidt recalls, he was volunteering with the bowling team at a tournament in Lethbridge several years ago. After the bowling there was a banquet, he says, and after that there was a dance party.
“There were 800 athletes in Lethbridge and once the dance started, I’d say there were 700 people dancing,” Schmidt says, laughing. “With so-called ‘normal’ people there would be 50 or 25 dancing. But these athletes, when they participate, it’s full on.”
Schmidt is a retired barber in High River and has volunteered with Special Olympics Alberta in the floor hockey, bowling and softball programs for 15 years. He got involved, he says, because two of his children have Down syndrome. But he has stayed involved because the enthusiasm the athletes show brings him joy.
Take an experience he had 10 years ago, at a provincial finals for floor hockey.
“We were in the D division, so at the bottom rung, and we were in a playoff game for the bronze,” Schmidt says. “One of our guys got the goal and everybody just roared. But the athlete who had scored was sad the other team had to lose.
“It’s probably the most rewarding sporting thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Schmidt says he’s learned that winning is less important for Special Olympics athletes. Instead it’s succeeding. “The score doesn’t count that much, but getting a goal, a run, a strike, getting that opportunity, is huge,” he says.
After seeing the dancing, Schmidt has himself taken to dejaying at Special Olympics events. Everybody gets up and dances. “It’s quite a joy,” he says.
Special Olympics Alberta is thankful for having committed and positive volunteers like Rianne. Find out how easy it is to be part of a movement of inclusion and sports by checking out our volunteer page!