Volunteer Week: Mom and Daughter Team Up to Spread Inclusion

By Melanie Barrios

There is nothing Pam loves more than watching her daughter succeed in Special Olympics.

Pam Anderson knows the importance of Special Olympics and the impact it is having on people with intellectual disabilities. For the past two decades, Pam has had a front-row seat watching her daughter, Debi, accomplish many things some might believe someone with intellectual disabilities cannot do.

“So many times, when you have a special needs child, all you can think of is the things that they cannot do,” Pam said. “To see Debi achieve things that she never thought she could do, or we {Pam and her husband}, has been an eye-opener.” This viewpoint is what compelled her to volunteer with Special Olympics to ensure all individuals with intellectual disabilities have the same chances as her daughter to accomplish their dreams.

Nothing is stopping Debi when she puts her mind to something. Her motto is “nothing is impossible,” which is something Special Olympics has taught her.

For the past twenty-two years, Pam has been right by Debi’s side, supporting her at every game, tournament, practice, and event. Debi is even an SOSC global messenger. As a global messenger, Debi speaks to community members and corporations about Special Olympics, about her journey in Special Olympics, and about how people with intellectual disabilities just need to be given a chance like everyone else.

Pam has volunteered to be a Global Messenger Mentor to help SOSC athletes, like her daughter, develop their public speaking skills. It is just another way for Pam to give back to an organization that has given so much to her family.

Pam and Debi have developed a format to best prepare Debi for a public speaking event. First, they sit down and outline all the different topics Debi wants to discuss with the organizations. Once they feel comfortable with their discussion points, Pam sits down and types out, using Debi’s words, precisely what Debi will say. The most complex challenge is having Debi memorize her speech where she does not have to read her notes. Pam’s thrill is watching her daughter become this confident person when she speaks in front of people and inspiring thousands of people.

“It’s exciting to see her succeed in public speaking, which is not my forte,” said Pam. “But my daughter, who [has struggled to communicate with people], is out giving speeches. That is a very special thing for a parent to see.”

It is not just getting businesses to support Special Olympics; Debi has convinced all of Pam’s friends to volunteer. They have witnessed her accomplishments, and when they see she can do so many things that they did not think she can do, including public speaking, they are incredibly impressed. Pam proudly stated, “We tell all our friends about all the things Debi has accomplished in Special Olympics, and they are more willing to attend events to watch her and also to donate.”

As a parent, Pam is grateful to Special Olympics for the skills they have taught Debi, the friends they have made, and the camaraderie that they share with staff, athletes, coaches, and volunteers. Even after two decades, Pam and her family are still excited about participating and being part of Special Olympics.

“There are no words that I can say that can thank the people who are supporting Special Olympics either financially or being right out there in the field with our athletes,” Pam said. “As a parent to see their child succeed as Debi has succeeded, the training that she gets for participating in the sports and her global messenger speeches, the hours that volunteers, staff, and sponsors have all given to Special Olympics; thank you very much!”

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