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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
special olympics

Taylor hosts Special Olympics

Provides opportunity for engagement, athletics

Many happy faces graced Taylor’s campus on Saturday, Feb. 10, for the Special Olympics. 

The Special Olympics is an annual competition hosted by Taylor, modeled after the international Olympics, for those with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics gives individuals with cognitive disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports, in this case basketball. This spring’s Special Olympics event was called “Take You To The Hoop.” Athletes of all ages from multiple nearby counties signed up for Special Olympics teams and prepared for months to play in the tournament. 

Participants played in  many different games throughout the day, tournament-style. 

Taylor World Outreach (TWO) and the Education Department supported the event with AVI Food Services who provided concessions. 

The success of this event heavily relied on student volunteers like Luke Petroelje and Briona Graham who co-directed the event with Diane Mitchell, the Grant County Special Olympics coordinator. In years past, Petroelje and Graham were a part of “Take You To The Hoop,” so when Mitchell reached out looking for students to help direct the event this year, they were both happy to get involved. 

Mitchell coordinated teams and designed the brackets for the tournament, while Petroelje and Graham focused on getting volunteers and organizing different aspects of the event. 

Petroelje said it was a privilege to participate and serve in such a way. 

One of Petroelje’s favorite parts of working the event was getting to meet and interact with people who each possess different sets of abilities and gifts that they contributed. 

Petroelje emphasized what hard work the volunteers put in, not just during the event, but the extra hours that many volunteers spent setting up and tearing down. 

“It’s such a gift to be able to see that play out,” Petroelje said. 

There were many volunteers for this event, the majority of whom were Taylor students; though some staff such as Lindsey Rupp, assistant director for residence life programs, and Josh Flannery, Taylor University football coach, participated with the help of their families. 

One volunteer was junior Jiyoung Lim. As an international student, she does not get many opportunities to volunteer. She felt the Special Olympics was a great chance to do so, especially because she loves sports. 

Lim hosted a team, the White Lakers, for the event with her partner Shelby England. The team members on the White Lakers got to know each other, encouraging one another before the start of the game; Lim and England cheered them on while they played. 

In between games, Lim and England got lunch with their players and spent time with them before the second one began. The White Lakers played a total of two games, winning the last.

“I learned … how creative God is,” Lim said. “We’re so unique, each person.”

Lim remembered one player in particular who suffered from knee problems. He played his best in the last minute of the game. She found it very impressive and inspirational.

The athletes who attended inspired Lim; whether by watching them play or how they communicated with each other during games.  

“It was really beautiful,” Lim said. 

She enjoyed every moment and would love to volunteer again next year.