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Inside the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin: Sunday Paper Guest Reporters Shine a Spotlight on Athletes' Triumphs and the Vital Role of Volunteers

Inside the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin: Sunday Paper Guest Reporters Shine a Spotlight on Athletes' Triumphs and the Vital Role of Volunteers

By Lauren Westphal
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The 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany, concluded today, and we had the privilege of connecting with two Sunday Paper Special Reporters who attended the games to get the inside scoop on the magic that drives the Special Olympics.

Our first Sunday Paper Special Reporter is Marja, a Delegation Assistant Liaison from Finland who worked with the Local Organizing Committee responsible for Team Finland. Her role involved assisting the Finnish Team during their Host Town Visit and throughout the games. Marja's journey with the Special Olympics began when her daughter Ella first got involved with the Special Olympics training team for rhythmic gymnastics in 2015. Initially, the idea of participating in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019 seemed daunting for Ella, but her family eagerly attended as spectators. The experience proved to be transformative, filled with excitement and a strong sense of inclusion.

The impact of Abu Dhabi was profound for Marja and Ella. Ella was offered a position as a co-trainer at a local sports club, where she continues to work with young children with passion and love. Marja, inspired by the inclusive atmosphere of the games, wanted to be involved in the Berlin 2023 Games to ensure that athletes with special needs would continue to have an extraordinary time.

Marja and her sister Lotta have waited four years after first applying and are thrilled to volunteer in Berlin. Marja reflected on the role reversal from Abu Dhabi, where she and her sister were now official participants in the Special Olympics Games, while Ella attended as a spectator, supporting her teammates and exploring different venues.

1) Ella after competing in Abu Dhabi 2) Marja volunteering in Berlin 3) Marja and her sister Lotta in Berlin

Our second Sunday Paper Special Reporter is Megan Scremin, the President & CEO of Special Olympics Colorado. Megan's involvement with the Special Olympics began over a decade ago when she met a volunteer on a plane who encouraged her to get involved. Megan was in the process of registering to volunteer when she saw a job opening. Megan knew the Special Olympics was a place she could see herself for the long haul, so she took a chance and applied. Megan has been with the Special Olympics ever since. She said, "Everywhere I turn, I see athletes with intellectual disabilities whose lives have been transformed for the better through their involvement. They have become healthier and more confident. They have formed lifelong friendships and achieved their goals on and off the field. But I also see that the impact of Special Olympics extends well beyond the athletes themselves and into their families, and the community at large. Thanks to Special Olympics programming that moves beyond just sports, we have athletes who are leaders within their communities, opening the eyes of individuals and companies to the incredible talents and abilities of people with disabilities. Athletes are using their voices and the Special Olympics platform to shape perspectives."

The Special Olympics holds a special place in the hearts of those involved, transforming lives, fostering inclusivity, and empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become leaders and advocates within their communities.

1) Megan with athlete and Chief Inspiration Officer, Loretta Claiborne 2) Megan with athlete Amanda Leonard

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