St. Joseph Middle School social studies teacher Laurie Murphy was thinking about her students while talking with her daughter, BCACS alumna Kellie Murphy, during Christmas Break. Kellie is the sports and wellness manager for the Special Olympics state office.
“I told Kellie during Christmas that I thought it would be a really good experience for our students to get involved in the Special Olympics, in some capacity, so that they would have a deeper understanding and perhaps be empathetic to this population of students/adults,” Mrs. Murphy said.
Kellie remembered her mother’s words. In January, when the Special Olympics needed volunteers for the 2018 Southwest Regional Winter Games, she called her mom.
“So of course I jumped on it and discussed this opportunity with (St. Joseph School assistant-principal) Katie Reed who loved the idea,” Mrs. Murphy said.
Having received St. Joseph School principal Sara Myers’s blessing, 30 eighth-graders accompanied by theology teacher Don Shafer and Ms. Reed went to Bittersweet Ski Area on Tuesday, January 16th.
“Students were timing events such as snowshoeing and cross-country Skiing,” Mr. Shafer said. “We also had a group that helped with feeding the athletes and volunteers.”
“I was impressed with how our eighth graders enthusiastically cheered on and jumped in to help people with abilities that are different than their own,” Mrs. Reed said. “We all volunteer for different reasons, but the outcome is always the same: the people we are there to help end up touching our lives way more than we could ever help them.”
Eighth-grader Therese Campos agreed.
“My favorite part was being able to meet and interact with the people we were helping,” Therese said. “I met three kids around my age, and it was very fun to talk with them.”
Students also took turns enjoying the activities.
“Many of them went out of their personal comfort zone and attempted to ski for the first time,” Ms. Reed said.
Ms. Reed hopes the memories of this day last longer than a single volunteer opportunity.
“Kellie Murphy’s love for volunteering for the Special Olympics led her to a full-time position organizing such amazing events and working with such a great group of people,” Ms. Reed said. “Perhaps some of our students will also find that same passion for helping others.”
Whatever the future brings, this opportunity helped plant the seeds of understanding Mrs. Murphy wanted for her students.
“I learned that even though the people may have disabilities they are also creations of God,” Therese said. “They are the same as you and me, but with a few differences. [These differences] doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a chance to compete in sports. They are actually better than I think I would be.”