By Terrionna Brockman
“I’ve learned empathy, compassion, support, kindness—the littlest things are big things to a Special Olympics athlete. You might not think it’s a big deal, but when you look at their faces it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal that we show up and it’s a big deal that they get that support. Give more, talk less.” —Kim Beckhart, SOSC Volunteer
Before becoming a dedicated Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) volunteer, Kim Beckhart familiarized herself with the organization early on. When she was fifteen years old, she supported a local Special Olympics event with her father, who had always participated due to his affiliation as a Kiwanis Club member. “I went to a track-and-field event and one of the things that I thought was so amazing was just how happy the athletes always are,” Kim shares. “They’re just so happy to be doing whatever they’re doing and they’re so grateful, and they’re so compassionate.”
Later on, Kim would become highly involved by way of partnerships between her employer, Microsoft, and connected organizations who also supported the Special Olympics mission. Kim had the opportunity to play golf in the Special Olympics Florida International Tournament, which she says was a start to her visibility in Special Olympics. It wasn’t until 2018 that she began volunteering for SOSC.
Kim’s mother was a quadriplegic and her story inspired Kim’s path to volunteerism. Kim knew that she wanted to impact lives by doing work that aligned with her mother’s story and like many people, she thought that the Paralympics were synonymous with Special Olympics. With further research, she identified the differences. “In looking into the story a little bit more I came across the Special Olympics Southern California and then reached out.” This connection sparked a journey that Kim speaks of with a smile to this day.
The first SOSC event that Kim supported was the Plane Pull held at the Long Beach Airport. “I had never heard of it,” says Kim. “I thought, that’s an interesting event! I think that would be so cool!” Intrigued, Kim and a few Microsoft employees created a team and had the opportunity to participate alongside a SOSC athlete, Alex, who was their team’s tugger. Kim goes on to share, “We just fell in love with Alex and his dad and that was the first thing that we had done. I can’t tell you the feedback I got from the Microsoft employees that did come. They were hooked! They were like, we want to do this again, we want to do more, so that was the start of it.”
Having experienced an event like no other, Kim went on to attend the SOSC Fall Games held in Fountain Valley where she volunteered. “I did the golf tournament it was so fun! I only volunteered for one day. I decided I wanted to go back and do it again,” Kim shares excitedly as she relives the moment. She goes on to share a memorable story where she presented four SOSC golfers with a challenge. If they could get on in regulation within five strokes, she would donate twenty-five dollars to SOSC. “It would take them five, or six, or seven strokes, and sure enough all four of them in the very next hole got on within five strokes,” Kim laughs. “So, I said okay, you’re going to have to do it in four strokes now!” Everyone was able to let loose, have fun, and raise money simultaneously.
Attending SOSC events has left a stamp on Kim’s heart, leading her to even more opportunities to make a difference. Prior to the pandemic, Kim teamed up with SOSC to host a morale event at Microsoft’s Irvine office where they set up bocce courts in the patio area and invited sixty or so employees, all of whom had a great time. Due to the pandemic, morale was on a decline, but Kim’s excitement kicked in once she learned about the SOSC Virtual Bingo events which bring together SOSC athletes and various organizations. She wanted to be part of this. “I said, well I want to do a morale event and I want to do a bingo tournament online,” Kim stated. “We did our first bingo tournament and we had a pretty good turnout – I think we had about thirty people and everyone just had a great time!” Kim and her fellow Microsoft employees had a blast connecting with athletes virtually and hearing their stories. She and SOSC went on to host eight virtual bingo events over the last two years and Kim continues to be steadfast in coordinating more opportunities to spread awareness and inclusion.
Kim shares a commonality with SOSC athletes: the hustle, drive, determination, and heart that goes into playing sports. “I’m a big athlete. I was a basketball player in college and so, being able to see them [athletes] have the passion and embrace their true authentic self, and do what they love… that’s why I love it [Special Olympics] so much!” She wants athletes to “Keep smiling. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep being your authentic self and just keep showing up!”
Kim is an agent of change, helping to spread the message of acceptance and inclusion within her network and community. She has experienced first-hand the life-changing work of Special Olympics and continues to shine her light, and that of her mother’s, by showing up for the athletes time and time again.
From the moment she attended her first Special Olympics event as a teenager to the game-changing phone call with SOSC, Kim has since been connected and committed to the athletes.