Published 04/22/11

Creating an unforgettable day for Special Olympians

April 22, 2011

For the third straight year, Cory Cloutier ’12 (Charlton, MA) is volunteering on Bryant’s Special Olympics committee. “My involvement really began in high school, when I served as a soccer referee for adult Special Olympic athletes,” he says. “Once I saw the athletes’ smiles, I was hooked. Being around such great, positive energy really made my day.”

The Special Olympics committee at Bryant, comprising students of all class years, works with a liaison from the Rhode Island Special Olympics organization to ensure the games run smoothly. But that’s not too much of an issue – the Northern Rhode Island Special Olympics have taken place on campus since 1980, and students have successfully run the show every year.

“I remember when I found out Bryant managed a Special Olympics event on campus,” says Cloutier. “I knew I had to be part of it.” He is the public relations director this year, and is fully committed to ensuring that the athletes and their families have the best time possible. “I’m asking the Bryant community to be part of this extraordinary experience,” says the accounting major who is minoring in communication and management.

One of the most compelling reasons Cloutier offers as a reason to volunteer? The athletes and their families. “I like the idea of being a part of a day that brings everyone such happiness,” he says. “And parents and family members deserve a day they can watch their loved ones just enjoy themselves.”

‘What they CAN do’

For Sarah Orr ’11 (Litchfield, CT), working with the Special Olympics committee at Bryant wasn’t something that she had to mull over for very long. She’s been attending events since she was a little girl to watch her younger sister, Melissa, compete. 

“She has such a great time,” says Orr. “And the closing ceremony is very powerful – whether or not you know someone in the games.”

Over many years of involvement with Special Olympics – as Melissa’s cheerleader and as a volunteer and committee member – Orr has been especially impressed with the effect that the games have on those who attend. She believes that volunteers for the Special Olympics gain a better understanding of people with disabilities.

“People don’t always understand how capable and happy those with varying abilities truly are,” she says. “Special Olympians are focused on what they CAN do, and they don’t feel bad – they’re just having fun.”

‘Powerful experience’

Sarah Dolny ’11 (Shelton, CT) agrees. Though this is her first year helping with Bryant’s Special Olympics event, she has volunteered at home. Her younger sister, Chelsea, is also a competing athlete in the Special Olympics in their hometown.

“The athletes walk up with these big smiles on their faces,” she says, “and are just happy to be there.” The committee members work hard, day and night, to make this event the best possible for the athletes and their families. “I need to know I’ve given a project or an activity 100 percent of my concentration and effort,” she says, “which is why I was happy that my schedule cleared enough this semester to allow me to volunteer.”

This massive, campus wide effort is rewarded on the day of the games. “To see how appreciative everyone is,” says Dolny, “makes your dedication to the Special Olympics totally worth it.”

Cloutier, Orr, and Dolny agree that one of the best things about volunteering for the Special Olympics on campus is that it’s one of those events that brings the Bryant community together. “It’s a bigger, better feeling than logging in community service hours,” says Cloutier. Dolny adds, “It’s hundreds of students with a variety of interests coming together. It’s faculty and alumni coming back to campus when they don’t have to be there. All in all, it’s a pretty powerful experience.”