Special Olympics: Full Circle
Kate Dyer has been involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) since 1997, first as a coach and Unified Partner, and now as a parent to both a Unified Partner and an athlete. This July, Kate Dyer will add a new title to her lengthy SOMA resume, Fundraiser, as she goes Over the Edge in support of the organization to which she is so deeply connected. SOMA sat down with Kate to discuss her history with the sports organization, her decision to fundraise, and the value in raising her children within the organization.
SOMA: Tell me a little about your history with Special Olympics – how did you first get involved?
Kate: When I originally volunteered to coach Special Olympics, I was a senior in college, majoring in Elementary Education, and volunteering at a clinic for children with special needs. I had a passion for working with people and really enjoyed playing sports. I was assigned to be an assistant coach for a Special Olympics adult basketball team in New Bedford.
SOMA: What was it like coaching the athletes?
Kate: I left the first practice with sore cheeks from smiling so much, and with a determination to be the best coach I could be. It was then that I knew I would get as much out of volunteering as the athletes would get from me. The athletes gain independence, a sense of accomplishment, friendship with peers, and confidence in themselves. As a Coach for volleyball, soccer and basketball, I gain an appreciation for each of my athletes’ struggles, patience, and skill at organizing a team of many differing abilities. As a Unified Partner for soccer, softball, and volleyball, I developed more physical fitness, experienced joy in watching the athletes succeed, and gained an understanding for the importance of community.
SOMA: That’s when you met your husband.
Kate: Within a few years of coaching, I fell in love with Jon, the gentleman Special Olympics originally paired me to coach with.
SOMA: And your children, they’re involved with Special Olympics as well?
Kate: Our two children have attended Special Olympics events since they were infants. Observing and participating in practice, they have gained an early understanding of people with different abilities, and have had opportunities to develop tolerance, acceptance, and friendship with families of athletes.
SOMA: Over the years, your connection to Special Olympics has evolved.
Kate: I am no longer just a coach, I am also a parent of an athlete: our son, Jordan. From this, I have gained friendships with other families of children with similar struggles, and found an organization that fits Jordan’s needs. The joy I experience watching him score a goal or basket, seeing him celebrate with his team…
SOMA: Your 12-year-old daughter, Jordan’s sister Sariah, is a Unified Partner. What is that like for her, growing up so close to the organization?
Kate: As a Unified Partner and volunteer, Sariah gains a better understanding of her brother. She helps Jordan feel successful at sports, and develops compassion for the people around her. She gains leadership skills while helping train the athlete and guide them through drills. My journey with Special Olympics has really come full circle. We’re a community, we all gain from each other.
SOMA: Coach, volunteer, Unified Partner, parent of an athlete. You and your family have held many titles over the years, and you’re adding one more to that list this summer: Fundraiser. Tell me about your decision to go Over the Edge.
Kate: I heard about Over the Edge at a Special Olympics coach’s meeting a couple years ago. I did not immediately participate because I struggle with asking people to donate money. This year I decided to give it a try because Special Olympics means so much to my family and the many families I know. I also enjoy sports, and thought rappelling down a 22-story building sounded like an incredibly memorable experience.
SOMA: Sariah is also going Over the Edge this year.
Kate: When Sariah learned about the event, she immediately wanted to participate. She loves Special Olympics: interacting with the athletes, sharing memorable times with the other volunteers, and being involved in such an important program. My husband and I were hesitant at first – Sariah is only 12 – but ultimately, I think it will be a strong bonding moment for mother and daughter.
SOMA: Both you and Sariah reached the fundraising minimum to participate ($1,000) within a few weeks of registering for the event. For first time fundraisers, that is certainly impressive. Tell me about your fundraising strategy.
Kate: I have posted it on my Facebook page, sent out emails, participated in a story in the local newspaper, and shared a typed version of the story with my friends and family. We are planning a yard sale where all the proceeds will go to our Over the Edge fund. Sariah babysits, and is planning on donating half of the money she raises babysitting to her Over the Edge fund.
If you would like to donate to Kate and Sariah Dyer, you can do so here:
If you would like to register for Over the Edge, please do so here: www.OverTheEdgeBoston.com