By Melanie Barrios
Christine McConnell knows all too well the importance of acceptance for all. Growing up with a family member with intellectual disabilities, Christine witnessed firsthand that sports were missing the most fundamental component of all sports: inclusion.
While at Cal State Long Beach, Christine stumbled upon Special Olympics Southern California. She saw first-hand the unity between athletes during summer games and felt inclined to learn more about the organization. Since volunteering at her first event in 2014, she’s been a long-time supporter of Special Olympics ever since!
Christine has always wanted to work with people with special needs. She saw how much her family member wanted to play sports with her and her brother, but they never got an opportunity to participate and this was unsettling for Christine. She emphasizes, “We are so blessed to have Special Olympics available to everybody and to have a place where everyone is included because it’s very sad that it wasn’t always available to everybody.” Seeing the work that SOSC does is what keeps her coming back year after year. Catch her volunteering her time at Healthy Athletes, Young Athletes, and same-day events. She also spends her time volunteering for Law Enforcement Torch Run with their fundraising events, such as Tip-A-Cop, as an additional way to support the athletes.
“I’ve learned through volunteering at Special Olympics how much positive thinking can impact your life,” Christine states. So much so that Christine’s favorite part about volunteering is interacting with the athletes and seeing how they are positive role models to each other and everyone else. She loves that the athletes show true sportsmanship by cheering each other on during the games. Over the years, Christine has had several students who have participated in Special Olympics and witnessed their confidence peak in all areas of their lives. Seeing that has inspired and motivated her to continue her work with Special Olympics.
“I had twin sisters that were my students, and seeing them at summer games—they were doing a track and field event and just seeing how great they did and how excited they were to see me at the events cheering them on was one of the best things. Seeing my students perform in a different atmosphere and having a great time is nice to see.”
Christine truly believes that Special Olympics athletes have the biggest hearts in the sports world.
“If you want to see true sportsmanship, it’s going to be at the Special Olympics games.”