A Life Changing Moment

During the Special Olympics Montana Fall Leadership Conference, Glen shared his story with a Special Olympics Montana board member about how Special Olympics saved his life. He wrote his story down so that we could share it with others. Below is a summary of what he shared.

Glen’s Story:

I am Private First Class Matthew Robocker (also known as Glen) of the 495th CSSB stationed in Libby, MT. I live in the small town of Eureka. Even if you don’t know me, I still need to say thank you…you saved my life.

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I was going into the seventh grate and I got into a fight with my best friend. I secluded myself from my first childhood friends and slowly started hanging out with other people. I met a group of kids that I thought were cool and I wanted to fit in with them. It went from doing cool things, like skateboarding outside at school, to not such cool things like, partying and making bad choices. I escalated in my partying to the point that I had a real problem.

To make a long story short, I go in trouble with the law. These “friends” blamed me for some things that I did not do, but could not prove that I didn’t because I was there. Just to give you an idea of the severity of the trouble, I ended up being convicted of 3 felonies and 4 misdemeanors for theft. I was required to do 240 community service hours and serve 2 years of probation. I was still a young teenager!

I went through this all and eventually gained back my original set of friends who I hold dear to this day. I had all but 20 hours of my community service done and nearly all of my probation completed. My probation officer met with me on a Monday and said if I can keep my grades up and can get my hours all taken care of, he would take me off probation and I wouldn’t have to see him again. The very next day I had a conversation with Greg Grove (SOMT Local Program Coordinator). He asked me if I would could and would accompany him along with another student and two athletes to Bozeman, MT to a Project UNIFY Youth Summit. I told him I would do it if he signed a paper saying that I did the remainder of my community service hours. He agreed and we were off.

This was my freshman year of school. We loaded up early in the morning and headed off to Bozeman. I  thought I would never have anything to do with Special Olympics again after that weekend, but I had such a great time my world was changed. We got back home and I was off probation and I had stopped partying like I was before. Greg continued to give me more information about being a Unified partner, and at first I was hesitant. But when I met some athletes, I was saved. I saw that not a single athlete had a frown on their faces and they were all so happy. They were even happy to see me, for what reason, I don’t know. The thought came into my head at that moment that I would always have something to do with Special Olympics.

I have been involved for almost 4 years now. Greg is one of my best friends; he helped me find what I wanted to do in life. On June 11, 2013, I enlisted in the Army National Guard. While I have only been enlisted for a short time, I have “ranked up” twice. Also, because of the moral support of Mr. Grove, I have a beautiful fiancé, wonderful life, and the best friends and family I could have ever asked for. Most importantly I have my friends from Special Olympics Montana! Thank you so much for getting me back on the right path, I truly believe with all my heart if it wasn’t for you and your help, I would be stuck in the same place I was when I started sharing this story with you.

I am so thankful, and look forward to our journeys together in the future!

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Experiencing Joy

Like many students, Morgan got to college and was ready to get more involved with her community. She began volunteering with Special Olympics Missouri through her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, and is now an active and engaged leader in the Special Olympics Movement.   

I had not been very involved with Special Olympics until I came to college.

I joined Alpha Sigma Alpha at Missouri Western State University, and one of our national philanthropies is Special Olympics. So, I started going to events and really enjoyed it. Seeing these wonderful people being so empowered and proud of themselves was awesome. Soon, I started to get more involved. I helped coach a middle school track team, I was on the Games Management Team for the Northwest area basketball tournament and the Games Management Team for the Spring Games here.

One of my very favorite memories of Special Olympics is from the Opening Ceremony at the basketball tournament. We had a line of men and women in uniform. The athlete with the torch went around the outside of the gymnasium and then up the middle of the line of people in uniform. All the while, “Standing Outside the Fire” by Garth Brooks was playing. I had tears in my eyes to see all these athletes with different skills and abilities and all these people here to support and cheer for them. I will continue to volunteer with Special Olympics because of the joy it brings me to see the athletes with such happiness and sense of accomplishment

. Lindgren

Being a Big Sister

The following guest blog comes from a volunteer with Special Olympics Missouri.

My name is Patricia. I’m a college student, intern, and executive board member of several on-campus organizations. But the thing I am, full time, with no exception is an older sister. I have two younger sisters and both of them are amazing. Hailey is 16 and interested in math and science more than anything on the face of the planet. She has told me that she wants to, one day, be a scientist in the field of stem cell research. My sister Harley is wonderfully creative, an artist, a caretaker, and one of the most loving people I have ever met in my entire life.

Harley has Autism. People have told her horrible things her entire life about herself, which are entirely untrue. I try to let her know that her Autism is something that makes her special, because it lets her look at people differently: with her whole heart. Many of the “faults” we see in people she completely overlooks because she sees them as kind, loving, and gorgeous individuals. Needless to say, having a sister who has affected my life so fully has had an impact on me. It’s made me see how beautiful all individuals are, how special.

When I went to college I started hearing about Special Olympics volunteering. It made me think how I could help, and how I can be a big sister to children who may not have someone to reach out to. Being involved in Special Olympics in Missouri has been such a rewarding experience, because I get to work with children whose happiness and excitement is contagious. I love being able to see all the smiles and getting all the hugs every time I volunteer.

I love being a big sister.

Making an Impact During Summer Vacation

This blog is written by Tanealya Hueth, a member of the National Youth Activation Committee, and an acvtive volunteer in her community in Montana. Tanealya shares some insigtht on how to avoid becoming detached from quality work during the summer. Just because school is out, doesn’t mean we have to be!

School is out and summer vacation has begun. This does not mean as a youth leader the impact that you have has to stop. Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to Greece and attend the National Youth Activation Summit. At this conference, we made an impact on others by discussions and workshops that helped each of us grow and become better leaders.

So the question is, “What can you do during summer vacation, as a youth leader, to make an impact?” Youth volunteering, being a mentor, helping in the community, or even getting others involved can make an impact. It is easy to see the impact of your actions thought these activities and this is even a fun way to spend your summer.

Where can you volunteer? First look for places to Volunteer in your community. Lots of places are looking for volunteers. Try your local Special Olympics office, youth camps, church, community garden, food banks, or local senior citizen centers. Also, you can look for places where you have an opportunity to work with young people with or without disabilities. As a leader you make an impact on others by being a role model or getting others involved.

Being a mentor is a great way to make an impact. Some mentoring programs are as easy as just being a friend to a child who needs one. Statistics show that kids who are mentored succeed greatly. Some of those statics are:

  • 58%  improved their school performance
  • 65% showed higher levels of self-confidence
  • 55% had a better attitude toward others and school

Start a website for teens by teens. Offer information and support for teens. Ask a local community service to host it for you.  Have a list of community services you can offer as referrals to kids in trouble or who are just lonely and need something to do during the summer. Put up helpful and upbeat articles of interest to other teens. Provide quizzes and puzzles. Make it a place other teens will want to come to for positive, encouraging, and supportive information and resources.

Do you love outdoor sports? Volunteer to coach your local Special Olympics team or play in a Unified Sports league. Or, do a little research and see if you have an Outdoor Education Center or Park Program in your area. Often these Centers offer programs for people with special needs and they nearly always need volunteers to help. What could be better than helping someone experience the joy of playing a sport.

Another option is to find out if there is a wheelchair sports program in your community. There are a lot of fine athletes who are confined to wheelchairs, still active and very competitive. Besides basketball, some wheelchair sports groups play rugby, hockey, tennis and softball. Get some friends together and challenge them to a game. You might be surprised who wins!

Bring some joy to a senior citizens facility. Not all senior citizens facilities are the same. They vary from having active seniors to bed-ridden individuals. But everybody has the same need – to know someone else cares. Why not throw a party for some folks in such a facility? It can be as simple as just bringing in some balloons and visiting with people (don’t worry about what to say – most of them will be happy to do the talking!). Or it can be as elaborate as performing a “show” for them. Gather some of your Special Olympics friends who can play music, sing, do card tricks, read poetry or tell stories – put it all together and make some people happy! They’ll talk about it for weeks.

If you or someone you know has a summer birthday, throw a birthday party but instead of gifts ask people to make a contribution to Special Olympics or another cause. Better yet, gather friends with birthdays in the same month and see how much you can raise!

These are just a few of the many ways that you canmake an impact as a youth leader during your summer vacation. Look around your community and talk to others about ways to volunteer. Don’t forget to get your friends involved. Be a role model and have fun with whatever you decide to do.

“If you have heart and determination in your life, then nothing can get in the way of your dreams!” ~Author Unknown