By Terrionna Brockman
“I want to give back to the community, not just my community, but in general. Any opportunity I can get out and help I do.”
Service is at the heart of what Nicole Nguyen does, from her role as the Program Manager for the National Medicare Administration at Kaiser Permanente to countless hours of community service and volunteering. She has been in healthcare for almost 25 years and expresses the joy she has for helping others both in her respective field and as a volunteer. If she could be a full-time volunteer, she would!
When asked about her interests outside of work, Nicole shares that what she does is truly rooted in helping others. She is no stranger to giving back and since she was a child she has participated in a number of community service opportunities. As early as elementary school she participated in toy drives and this passion stayed with her throughout the years. In high school she rallied her peers to complete a toy drive for a local charity and after years of giving back, she currently volunteers for Project Motivate, a mentorship program designed to empower at risk Vietnamese-American youth in Orange County, California. “Outside of work, that’s what I do! I spend a lot of time recruiting people, planning, asking for money always,” she shares with a laugh.
Nicole also takes advantage of volunteering opportunities through her employer, Kaiser Permanente and when given the chance to give back, she makes it a priority to be present, assisting any way she can. “I want to give back to the community, not just my community, but in general. Any opportunity I can get out and help I do.”
It was in divine timing that Nicole was introduced to Special Olympics Southern California as a volunteer at the 2022 Fall Games in Fountain Valley, California and much gratitude goes to Kaiser Permanente, a big-time supporter of SOSC for the genuine connection! “My involvement with SOSC was recently with my volunteering because one, it’s locally and two, it’s a population that I haven’t helped personally. I only helped financially. I was only able to donate, but not be active in person and so this was an opportunity!” she explains. Nicole is all about getting the word out and often encourages others in person and online to make a positive impact through giving back. “I was so excited to help and of course, once I knew I called everybody to promote!”
Nicole signed up to volunteer in one area, but was flexible when it came to the immediate needs at Fall Games. She willingly switched gears to help pack lunches for athletes. “They said we’re shorthand and we were just packing lunch the whole time. It was fun! We got to meet other people. While working we shared each other’s experiences,” she shares. “We also met a lady who has been doing this for twenty-something years!” On day two, Nicole attended as a fan, supporting athletes at the tennis courts. “I just wish I could go to every one of the sports, but it was fun!” She also spent time at the Kaiser booth supporting the players and cheering them on. Nicole says jokingly, “I didn’t work at the booth, but I became a cheerleader!”
When asked what she has learned from her experience as a volunteer, Nicole shares that she doesn’t have enough time to give back and she wishes it were her full-time job instead of “a fun thing.” Reflecting on her time at Fall Games, she goes on to explain that something as simple as packaging a lunch is tangible. “It’s so different than being behind a screen, talking and doing our business, and our PowerPoints—it’s so different! I just wish I could do that [volunteer] for a living.”
Anyone who has volunteered or attended an SOSC event as a spectator can attest to the life-changing and positive atmosphere that is complete with comradery between athletes and coaches, the loving support of family members and friends, and the selflessness and giving-spirit of volunteers, donors, and partners. Nicole mentioned that, “Volunteering is hard. You’ve got to have the right people to help you, otherwise it isn’t moving,” and that statement is true. It is volunteers like Nicole who make the world of a difference at SOSC, and in their communities.