By Katie Heisler, student ambassador and business administration student
The Special Olympics Wisconsin Winter Games took place recently at Nine Mile Forest in Rib Mountain, Wisconsin. The Special Olympics competition is always an exciting event, but it was particularly special this year as it was cancelled the previous two years due to weather conditions. Athletes come from all over the state to participate in sports like alpine and cross country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
Globe University-Wausau student ambassadors Katie Syring (criminal justice) and Katie Heisler (business administration) braved the cold on Sunday to help out wherever they were needed. They found this experience meaningful in ways neither of them expected.
Katie Heisler worked in the tent where they handed out awards for the athletes. Katie learned the story of an athlete, Melissa, who has participated in the games for the last five years. This year, she participated in three events. She came in first place for a 50 meter snowshoeing race, fourth in the 100 meter snowshoeing event, and third with her team in a snowshoeing relay.
“I have never seen that much energy and excitement in one place until today. Even when the athletes didn’t medal, their smiles were contagious. I can honestly say that I cried a few times from seeing these inspiring athletes do something that I could never do,” Katie Heisler stated.
Kate Syring agreed. She was assigned to be at the finish line and wait to walk the athletes to the awards tent. “This experience was so humbling—it made me appreciate life by seeing them so happy. Every single athlete and volunteer I met was extremely friendly.”
She observed that it isn’t just watching the events in which these athletes compete that makes it special—it’s seeing how much support there is from friends and family who who witness them competing and receiving the awards that is truly incredible.
Both Katie Heisler and Katie Syring are looking forward to lending a hand next year. They encourage others to participate as well.
“It’s an experience you won’t forget,” Katie said.