I was hesitant about starting a blog for many reasons. I wondered if anyone would care to read what I wrote. I wondered if I had the time to devote to the task. I wondered if I could make a difference. I decided that I should take the chance and start a blog devoted to encouraging people to live passionately. I want to show people how passionate living can change the world and make a difference in people’s lives. I plan to promote people who are doing just that. I discovered my passion for Special Olympics in 1991 when I was working overnights at a Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station.

I decided to volunteer for the Special Olympics World Summer Games. I had no idea how that simple decision would change my life. I was one of thousands of volunteers helping six thousand athletes from 100 countries experience the world’s largest sporting event of the year. I was a journalist, so of course, I wanted to use that experience to help the media cover the Games. I went to my training sessions, eager to serve but not sure what exactly I’d be doing. I got a crash course on Special Olympics, a nifty uniform consisting of a couple of t-shirts, a ball cap and the always attractive “fanny” pack. After training I went off to welcome the media to the Roller Skating venue. Up to that point, my fondest memory of my roller skating experience was the moonlight “couples” skate in junior high when I held onto dear life to whatever boy who was willing to skate with me, or rather willing to keep me from falling flat on my backside. I had no idea that people competed in Roller Skating. Boy, was I in for a life lesson! The Special Olympics athletes taught me that yes, they compete and they’re really good. These athletes are definitely the real deal. I was and still am amazed, thrilled, and in awe of the passion that each athlete displays; the dedication to training they exhibit; the commitment and support their families show; and just how much fun I have watching them. Their sportsmanship is unparalleled in any other sporting event. They cheer on their competitors. They encourage the best of everyone. They demand and command respect. But most of all, their joys, triumphs, and smiles are so infectious. I dare anyone to visit a Special Olympics event and not walk away moved, impressed or proud of the athletes’ accomplishments. My commitment to Special Olympics is real. For 20 years, I have found a way to incorporate it into my life. I took a temporary full-time position with the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. That nine-month position was the most ambitious one I’ve ever tackled, but it is without a doubt the most rewarding job I’ve ever experienced. Most recently, I have been a volunteer and a member of the Media SOS team—a group of passionate people who provide media expertise and consultation to Special Olympics staff, volunteers, athletes, media, sponsors, and spectators at World Games events. We facilitate international media coverage, crisis communications, celebrity interaction, sponsorship support and enhancement in an effort to promote, educate and create awareness of acceptance, inclusion and tolerance through Special Olympics. Over the years, this role has enabled me to travel to places I’d never otherwise see; to meet people I would never otherwise meet; and most importantly share a small part of myself with the magnificent athletes, parents, staff, and volunteers of Special Olympics. I am humbled, honored and blessed for the opportunity. This summer, we helped launch the Dignity Revolution at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. I learned to say “Ime Mesa”—I’m in. We asked the world to join the Special Olympics movement and each Greek volunteer overwhelming said “Ime Mesa.” One Special Olympics fan wrote this encouraging poem:
When you meet an athlete, you’re in
When you meet a volunteer, you’re in
When you meet a coach, you’re in
When you meet a family member, you’re in
When you meet an official, you’re in
When you see a competition, you’re in
When you watch a medal ceremony, you’re in
When you speak to a sponsor, you’re in
When you want to celebrate human achievement, you’re in
I’m in………..are you?
If you’re interested in igniting your passion, you can’t go wrong with Special Olympics. For more information, visit www.specialolympics.org

If you know someone who is living enthusiasitcally and passionately for life, please let me know. I will be featuring various people in upcoming blogs. jhammergren@earthlink.net