Before coming to West Chester University, I would’ve never imagined myself volunteering for an organization here on campus. This experience has completely changed my perspective of volunteering and looking towards the future in giving back to communities with extracurricular activities outside of school. This organization, Special Olympics Rammies Basketball, is designed by the West Chester University Adapted Physical Activities Program.
It all started when my professor Dr. Bessie Lawton told my class that we had to volunteer for an organization for our service learning project. At first, I didn’t know what to choose, but then I noticed how there was one organization that related to basketball. Being a former basketball player, I believed it would be fun because I loved the game. I went in with the mindset that it was just going to be coaching and playing basketball with a few individuals and nothing else—I was completely wrong.
The program met every Wednesday beginning Jan 31. The first day I walked in, I was assigned to a young adult who had a disability. I never worked around children or adults who had a disability, so it was a new experience for me. The lead coaches gave us the rules and regulations as to what would take place over the course of the semester for this program. The second week was when all volunteers, including me, were able to meet with our athletes.
I won’t mention my player’s name, but to describe him, he has Down syndrome. I looked past all of that because all I could see was a young man wanting to have fun with basketball. I didn’t know him for long, but I saw how sweet and funny he truly was. His smile from the laughter of others and shooting around with his other teammates was just incredible. He made me see that even though he has a disability, it didn’t stop him from having happiness and joy in his life: He was just like everyone else.
As I continued to coach and watch him play basketball, I started noticing the other players surrounding me on the court. Their smiles were beautiful as they played with joy when they shot a 3-pointer, layup or dribbled the ball. I was so taken aback on how these individuals enjoyed playing the game of basketball with their friends.
I realized it wasn’t just about coaching and watching others play basketball, but it was about seeing my player and other players do their best in the process of playing the game. I loved to see how happy he was from when he walked in around 5:30 p.m. to the time he hugged his mother after the game was over; it was pure joy to my eyes. Special Olympics Rammies Basketball is a great program to reach out and add joy to those in need. I will always remember their special oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt!”
Jennifer Odiatu is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. ✉ JO820471@wcupa.edu.