Why I Volunteer with Special Olympics Maryland



The following represents the opinion of the student reporter and does not represent the views of Loyola University Maryland, the Greyhound, or Loyola University’s Department of Communication. 

On April 15,  Loyola’s Fitness and Aquatic Center held the Special Olympics Swim Qualifier Event. This is an annual, well-awaited event, particularly for the athletes who have put in a lot of hard work and training for this moment.

Special Olympics brings together athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities to compete in athletic competitions in 32 sports including swimming, figure skating, bowling, and tennis. Not only does Special Olympics exist in the United States, but you can find athletes competing across other continents.

As a volunteer at this event, I could choose to help time the athletes or escort them to their lanes. The athletes are divided into their separate Maryland counties and if you choose to lead the athletes to their places, you will be assigned small groups that each represent a particular county. I chose to accompany the athletes to their lanes and in this role I met some amazing people that I will never forget. 

As this is my second year as a volunteer at this event, I can say it is all about the rewarding experience and the people you meet along the way. I think that the positivity that radiates from the hearts of the athletes is tremendous and infectious. While some athletes made it a point to ask and remember my name, others would crack a joke and try their hardest in an attempt to make me smile. I initially volunteered to leave an impact and help make the event possible but in the end, the athletes left an impact on me as well.     

Grace D’Amico ’24 shares similar enthusiasm for the event. D’Amico has been volunteering at the Swim Qualifier Event for the past two years. I initially met Grace through this volunteer opportunity and we worked together in escorting the swimmers to their places.  

She said, “I thought it was an amazing day. It was such a cool experience to see all of the athletes do such an amazing job and to see familiar faces from last year was awesome.” 

Luisa Glass ’25 was the Special Olympics Service Coordinator for the event this year as well as an intern with the Center for Community, Service, and Justice. Through these positions, she held a lot of responsibility in putting everything together for the big day. This included informing the student body about the volunteer opportunity, organizing a prep session for the volunteers prior to the event, and reaching out to campus organizations and departments that closely align with the goals and missions of Special Olympics to assist the day of. Some of these groups include the club swim team, Advocates for Inclusion, the Education Society, Best Buddies, the Speech-Language-Hearing-Sciences Department, and the Special Education Department. Two students from WLOY Radio were also present and took on the role of announcing during this event. 

Glass sees the value in this event and believes along with Special Olympics Maryland and the Center for Community, Service, and Justice that the event was a success this year. She hopes that anyone who is interested in this volunteer opportunity will consider it for next year.  

Glass said, “The Special Olympics Maryland Swim Qualifier Event is a really fun and unique engagement opportunity for the Loyola Community. We are so grateful for this partnership and the chance to work with Special Olympics Maryland athletes during this event.”  

In my opinion, volunteering with Special Olympics is a great way to recognize the talents and abilities that exist in everyone as well as fostering an inclusive and supportive community.  In giving the gift of your time, you receive a gift as well through the smiles and connections you make, and I am grateful that Loyola offers us this opportunity each year.  Along with volunteering at the Swim Qualifier Event in the spring at Loyola, there is also an opportunity to help with Special Olympics in the summertime at Towson University.

 For more information about how to get involved with Special Olympics Maryland, click here.