In the world of sports, it can be easy to forget what really matters. Too often we find ourselves rooting for the win – seeing the finish line as the one and only qualifier of human potential. It’s exactly that sort of thinking that drove Darren Brown to Special Olympics, where the essence of sports is found in joy, friendship and inclusion, not just victory.
“I wanted to volunteer with an organization that would be more concerned about the fun, fitness, and social aspects of sport, and less about the need to win,” said Brown, who has been an active volunteer with Special Olympics Alberta – Olds and District for nearly ten years. “I wanted to have a volunteer experience where a person can feel like you are helping another person improve their personal wellbeing.”
In 2007 Brown said he came across an advertisement for Special Olympics in the local paper. He had long been searching for an organization to volunteer with, and Special Olympics seemed to fit his criteria.
Since then Brown has gone on to become an integral part of Special Olympics Alberta – Olds and District. The list of roles he fulfills reads more like an encyclopedia than a resume.
“I am secretary of the local affiliate committee and I am the head coach of our softball, curling, and floor hockey programs,” he said. “For softball, I run our mini-league and organize the tournament in Olds. For curling, we mostly practice but also attend the bonspiels in Leduc, Red Deer, and Calgary. I also organize the bonspiel in Olds. And for floor hockey, I organize several practices and also invite local guest teams to come in and play. Plus, we attend the annual tournament in Edmonton and a one-day fun tournament in Red Deer.”
It is safe to say Brown’s initial expectations of Special Olympics have been greatly exceeded. He started out with a mission of merely lending a helping hand, but has since become so much more. And in what has become a common thread among Special Olympics volunteers, he admits he gets more out of the organization than he puts in.
“Special Olympics offers a wonderful opportunity to interact with athletes and help them achieve a higher level of skills, fitness, and social interaction,” he said. “There are so many ways to see improvement within an athlete that does not have to include higher levels of competition.”
“Something as simple as a high five or a hug is a huge step for an athlete, and from there you can watch them grow.”
While he no doubt has a number of memorable moments with Special Olympics, Brown said none in particular stand out. Rather, he said his time with the organization has been a remarkable journey from beginning to present, and he is looking forward to making more memories in the future.
“It has been a fantastic experience and a great way to gain many new friends,” he said. “Each event I volunteer at, I come away with a smile and happy memories.”