By Kelsey Lewis
Happiness and positivity energizes anyone and everyone. For Patricia Matthews, Community Relations Officer of Homeland Security, volunteering is always a happy surprise. She never knows what she’s going to see or experience at any of the opportunities, but she knows it’s going to be good. She’s driven by how being with Special Olympics Southern California brings her joy every time she’s involved, while also giving a little bit of herself to her community.
Officer Matthews has been part of Special Olympics throughout her life but never settled into a consistent role of volunteering until two and a half years ago when she joined the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest public awareness vehicle and grassroots fundraiser for SOSC.
As part of her job, Patricia is involved heavily with her community and is always looking for ways to get involved or help make the community better for those within it. That’s exactly what drew her to SOSC.
“It was more than I could have imagined,” she said. “I only had a glimpse into what Special Olympics offers family members in the community. So, it’s been very eye-opening and very special to be a part of this.”
With her involvement at SOSC, she is able to further her efforts in the community through various events such as Tip-A-Cops, coaching, attending Global Messengers speeches, and her personal favorite and ultimate dream, the World Games send-offs. She is always thinking of creative ways to get involved and help, whether that’s through connections, resources, scholarships or even job trainings.
“I look forward to the next time I can participate or support or do anything to help the athletes, their families, the staff, the teams and the office,” she continued. “If I can’t be physically present as much as I’d like to, then I’m constantly thinking of things… and that’s been one of the awesome things in this job. The unexpected challenges that cross my way, because the nature of it, I have been fortunate to have, or blessed to be around, all of these different groups of people and opportunities.”
Of all the groups she has been around since joining the Special Olympics family, the one that comes to Patricia’s mind would be that of San Diego athlete and Global Messenger, Thomas Selbe, and his mother.
“Thomas’ mom has been a very welcoming, wonderful person to all of us,” Patricia said. “Thomas, seeing him when he started speaking publicly, giving different presentations and [when] he came to our organization… the confidence, poise and very generous spirit of someone who is willing to share about their life and challenge… [and] motivating us as well. It’s been really special to see that over the last couple of years.”
For Patricia, her involvement ties to her desire to leave things better than when she found it. She hopes that through both her career and involvement with SOSC she can help educate others more and show how beautifully diverse and inspirational communities can be.
“You can see how resilient the human spirit is,” she said. “When you have that support and structure in place to kind of keep people looking forward and to the options that are available, that is a wonderful thing. We’re all born with different talents, but focusing on the abilities we do have is something I feel like this organization continues to do and then it helps us as individuals to think of, ‘Okay, let’s not focus on our limitations, but let’s focus on what we can do.’ Each person has an individual story and path and all equally beautiful and inspirational. It’s something that I think we need to hear more of.”