As a big sports fan, I am humbled and amazed at the power of sports. And being part of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games has truly been a “cup-filling” moment for my spirit. But what has really made these games special is having the honor of working alongside some pretty incredible cast members who have volunteered their time to make these games even more memorable for these awe-inspiring athletes.
One of those amazing VoluntEARS is Renee Parker, executive secretary who brings her passion to the Games through the Healthy Athletes program which is designed to give athletes proper medical exams and access to free medical necessities they may not otherwise have access to. Back in 2015, she was chosen to be one of two candidates to represent Walt Disney World at the Special Olympic International Games in Los Angeles. When she learned Disney would be the host of the 2022 USA Games, Renee knew she had to be involved in these “epic” events.
“This is a priceless offering and an unforgettable humanitarian effort for Disney cast members to be involved in.”
As part of the Games’ Healthy Athletes Experience, trained medical professionals give dental, vision, hearing, physical and emotional care to the athletes.
“Athletes walk away with the things that they need like- electric toothbrushes, custom orthotics and eyeglasses and even hearing aids- free of charge,” said Renee. “This program truly provides lifechanging care for athletes.”
On the field, Disney custodial cast member Steve Lyons, supports track and field athletes before and after their race through tips, stretching exercises and words of motivation. Steve has had the honor of volunteering, coaching and being an official at Special Olympics events for many years. As a former collegiate runner and marathoner, Steve enjoys sharing his passion for the sport.
“It’s amazing to give back by doing what I love-which is running and to play a part in helping athletes reach their goals.”
“As cast members we’re here to make everyone feel welcome at Walt Disney World and I’ve loved being able to do that during the Games.” Being back on the track is always exciting for Steve but being out there during this event has inspired him, “seeing them compete and do their best teaches us that no difference or disability can keep you from achieving your dreams.”
Chloe Lee, resort operations assistant, first volunteered with Special Olympics Pennsylvania before moving to Florida, where their excitement was sparked again after becoming a cast member. Like many Disney cast members, Chloe marked this week on the calendar as soon as they heard the dates.
“At Walt Disney World, we know that our cast members are at the heart of the magic. Similarly, volunteers are the magic makers and backbone of Special Olympics.”
Renee, Chloe, Steve and the thousands of other Disney VoluntEARS who have dedicated their time to the Special Olympics USA Games this week are a true inspiration. It’s exciting to see you all “shine as one” and share your passions.