Student directors prepare for this year’s Special Games, ‘You’re an Allstar’

Cecilia Lopez, Photo Editor

Two-hundred fifty athletes, 500 student volunteers, five directors – let the games begin.

Special Games, which will be held this Saturday, is an outreach event held every year in which about 250 athletes of all ages with special needs gather for a day full of games, dancing and various other activities along with the companionship of their buddies, which are Mater Dei students.

Opposed to other events held on campus, this event is almost entirely student-led. According to the event coordinator and Christian Service Director Stephanie Hopkins, about 500 Mater Dei students volunteer to assist before, during and after the event under the guidance of five student directors.

The five directors aiding in the event this year are seniors Maisie McPherson, Luke O’Hara, Elena Van Eenenaam, Jude Zavala and junior Alizea Hinz. Although the directors have all had different experiences from Special Games, they all share the same desire and passion to continue participating and contributing towards the event.

“I was interested in becoming a Special Games Director because … I absolutely love being able to help others,” said Hinz, who is in her third year of volunteering. “I felt like being a director would both allow me to help individuals and in turn our community.”

Hopkins believes that in order to be a Special Games director, one must have experience working with people with disabilities, possess significant organizational skills, a positive attitude and willingness to go the extra mile to make Special Games “the best ever.” The coordinators and directors meet bi-weekly in the mornings before convening with the leaders.

“Although I meet weekly with the leaders at upper lunch, I [have] a core group who assists in planning and implementing the leader meetings and overseeing the entire event,” Hopkins said. “Every year I am so impressed by this core group as they take ownership for every facet of the Special Games … from recruiting volunteers and athletes to setup and cleanup of the event.”

Hinz said she enjoys Special Games because of the opportunity she is given that enables her to make an impact on lives of the athlete’s by creating lifelong experiences and memories with them. 

Interested in playing a key role in the overall mechanics of the event, Van Eenenaam also decided to be a director in this year’s Special Games after being a volunteer in the past.

“It means a lot to me to be a director. I have been involved in ASB for four years now, so I have always been exposed to the impact of leadership,” Van Eenenaam said. “However, Special Games leaves a different kind of impact on the community. The athletes that come every year continue to return because of how the students make them feel: accepted and cared for.”

Van Eenenaam hopes that, as a director, she can help make the day run as smoothly as possible and aid in whatever necessary to make sure that the needs of the athletes and volunteers are all met. In addition, this year she’s personally looking forward to seeing things from a unique perspective.

“Every year, I enjoy spending time with the athletes, getting to know them, as well as seeing how students interact not only with each other, but also the athletes…” Van Eenenaam said. “I think that as a director, I will gain a whole new appreciation for Special Games.”

Hinz said that the best part about participating in Special Games is “being able to see our buddies’ faces light up with excitement as the volunteers cheer them on and build them up to show that they’re allstars.” In fact, this year’s Special Games theme is “You’re an Allstar.”

“This event reminds you of all the good and happiness in the world…” Hinz said. “Many times in life we’re dragged down by the negative, so it’s very refreshing to come to Special Games and be reminded of all the good, and happiness in the world. I absolutely love this event, and it has been such a blast being able to plan the best day ever for all of our buddies … I do truly believe that our buddies are a blessing and a reminder to all of us of God’s light in the world.”

Campus Ministry is still accepting registrations for Special Games athletes interested in registering for the event until tomorrow – all ages are welcome. For more information, click here.