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Volunteering to win/win
Employees inspire greatness in Special Olympics athletes
BY DIANNA RAMIREZ
The hot sun was beaming on my face … my heart was beating faster than ever,” said Lee White, a Boeing employee volunteer at the Special Olympics. “Drops of sweat from my forehead ran down my cheeks as I continuously struggled to pull myself up and over this high wall. What was I thinking … could I really pull this off? I kept telling myself that I had to do it. Sandy was counting on me.”
This is one of many volunteer stories from Boeing employees who always give their best. Working as volunteers, they say, has made a positive impact in all of their lives.
These Boeing volunteers cheered, gave a lot of high-fives and encouraged athletes to do their best at this year’s Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games held in June at California State University, Long Beach.
More important, they witnessed the courageous drive of these athletes and their determination to win. Volunteer experiences can inspire you to do things you may not think are possible, as shown in the story of Sandy.
Sandy is a 10-year-old girl who was determined to get through the obstacle race course. Lee White, a computing coordinator for the Seal Beach Information Technology Group, not only stood by Sandy’s side but joined in her excitement by also climbing over the wall of the obstacle course. White said Sandy started the course racing against a friend. Both girls, working together, reached their respective tunnels about the same time.
White vividly recalls Sandy’s determination to get to the end of the course.
“No, I can do it myself,” White recalls Sandy saying as she offered to help her. Frustrated and determined, Sandy made several attempts at climbing the wall, but just as she would reach to grab the last knot, she would slide back down.
“By now there was a crowd of athletes awaiting their turn, when someone suggested that I go with her,” White said. “While she struggled to get a start, Sandy watched as her friend cleared the wall in a short time. Despite the pressure, she agreed to teach me how to climb the wall. I continuously struggled to pull myself up and over this high wall, so that’s when we made a compromise to try and climb over the wall together. If I got there first, I would go over. She could then grab hold of my arm and pull herself over.
“That was it. Sandy raced through the rest of the course with ease. Sandy was the proud champion.”
This year’s event brought together more than 1,700 athletes who competed in sports such as aquatics, gymnastics, basketball, bocce, golf, and tennis. Boeing employees dedicated their time and energy working a number of athletic venues, hospitality tents, entertainment and booths.
Daniel Kaz, Computer Assisted Design instructor for Integrated Defense Systems in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, said his day with the Special Olympians made him a better person.
“Thanks to these athletes—because of their courage and determination—I have learned a valuable lesson,” Kaz said. “They taught me to never give up whether I succeed or fail in my endeavors.”
There are many reasons why Special Olympics is dear to the hearts of Boeing employees. Marilyn DeCroix, a Boeing volunteer from Huntington Beach, has a special child in her family.
“In order to brighten the future for special children, you must work with them,” DeCroix said. “I have worked with special children for many years, and it is my hope that by working with them I will in some small way make a contribution to their future.”
DeCroix’s assignment was to escort a junior basketball team from Lakewood, Calif., named the “Anklebiters,” a coed team for ages 9 to 14.
“It was an honor for me to shoot hoops with the team,” DeCroix said. “I had the chance to get to know each one of them and encouraged them to always continue to do their best. I’m looking forward to seeing them win again next year.”
Boeing employees have long been active supporters of the Special Olympics.
“Boeing volunteers are well known for their generosity, as proven by this year’s success,” said Michelle Bandoian, director of Internal Communications and Executive Communications for Integrated Defense Systems.
“Thanks to these athletes—
because of their courage and
determination—I have learned a
—Daniel Kaz, CAD instructor
for Integrated Defense Systems
in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach
Nearly 200 employees and their guests contributed more than 1,500 hours to this year’s event, a significant increase from 2001.
“The number of volunteer participants for this event has grown tremendously through the years, marking 2002 as the best year yet,” Bandoian said.
And for those who volunteered, the experience was not without ample rewards.
“Volunteerism is an honorable and rewarding adventure,” advises Kaz. “Seize the opportunity—your soul will be enriched, and this experience will change your life for the better. My memories as a volunteer for Special Olympics will remain cherished as one of the happiest moments in my life.”
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