Volunteers of Special Olympics Louisiana help participants

The Special Olympics Louisiana gave a chance for athletes to show that they were more than their disability while allowing a variety of volunteer organizations to give their time to provide a variety of services.

The 2016 Summer Games began on Friday, May 20 and continued until Sunday, May 22 on the university’s campus.

One organization that participated in the Games was Special Smiles, a group that provided free fittings and mouth guards for the athletes. They also provided oral screenings and instruction on proper brushing and flossing habits. Special Smiles also helps train dental professionals to work on patients with disabilities.

Louisiana Special Smiles Clinical Director Jennifer Hew explained some of the program’s she has implemented for athletes.

“I’ve created a program at the LSU Dental School for athletes to help improve their access to care,” said Hew. “They can come in at the Dental School, have a screening done, have x-rays taken, cavities filled and be charged student prices rather than private practice costs. It makes it much cheaper for athletes so they can get their health back. They get their mouth back in order, and students get to work on the patient so it’s a win-win.”

Another organization helping the athletes was Opening Eyes, an eye screening service for the Special Olympics. The group provided vision screenings to the athletes and was led by Dr. Amanda Hickman. According to Opening Eyes volunteer Jamie McDonald Marshall, the group gave away over 200 free pairs of glasses and sunglasses in the 2015 Games to the athletes.

Marshall explained how she had become aware of the opportunities to help at the Special Olympics.

“My daughter is one of the doctors, Amanda Hickman,” said Marshall. “She’s the one leading the group. This is my third year to volunteer and she organized the group. She asked me and other family members to help out at the Special Olympics.”

Volunteering has become important for some at the Special Olympics.

“It’s one thing to say you’ll volunteer to do something,” said Marshall. “But when you actually do it, and you see how happy you make people, there’s no other feeling like it. That’s why I’ll keep coming back.” 

Friday’s opening festivities for the Special Olympics lasted from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and included the parade of different athletes and the arrival of the “Flame of Hope.” The ceremonies were designed to imitate real Olympic ceremonies as closely as possible.

Saturday was the longest day of the games; lasting from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Saturday featured most of the Track & Field competition, as well as fun activities in Olympic Village. They also featured the Bocce Tournament, the Mini Javelin and Volleyball competitions and the Closing Ceremonies later that night. The last day of the games was Sunday which saw the end of the Bocce Tournament and the powerlifting competition.