For National Volunteer Week, April 19 to 25, we are thanking our 22,000 volunteers across Canada by sharing some of their stories. Their unwavering support helps Special Olympics athletes and their families build the confidence, determination and strength to take on any challenge in sport – and in life.
MEET SPECIAL OLYMPICS SASKATCHEWAN'S JILL DOBBIN
Special Olympics Saskatchewan coach Jill Dobbin started volunteering in Kindersley when she was just 11-years-old.
After attending an information night with her mother – who teaches special education – and brother, they decided to become volunteers together as a family.
Today, the now 15-year-old acts as assistant coach for her local bowling and athletics teams.
“The athletes make me really happy,” Jill said. “If I have a bad day and then I go to Special Olympics, it makes everything better – they always make me see things in a different light.”
One of the most impactful moments she’s experienced so far, was just last year at the Special Olympics Saskatchewan Provincial Winter Games Regina 2019.
While volunteering at Healthy Athletes – a program offered at Special Olympics events and competitions that delivers free health screenings for individuals with an intellectual disability – one of her bowlers went through Opening Eyes, a clinic for vision care.
After an eye exam, the specialists discovered he was going blind.
“We got to give him glasses – it felt so nice to be a part of something like that,” Jill said. “When he got the glasses, he could see the bowling pins – it was like a wow moment.”
His game, of course, also improved, Jill added with pride.
While she’s watched athletes overcome challenges and grow as individuals over the past four years, she’s also noticed considerable growth in herself.
“When I was younger, I was really self conscious,” she recalled. “Now I’m much more confident, because I’m designing and leading practices and presenting to the group.”
“Volunteering for Special Olympics is just a really good experience. There’s lots of room to grow and meet people and really get to know yourself.”
But what is it that truly brings her back to practice each and every week?
“The smiles,” she said. “And the joy the athletes show.”