John Huet/Special Olympics USA Games
A once-every-four-years showcase of athletic talent, dedication and sportsmanship will roll into Seattle this summer, and your help is needed to make it all happen. The Special Olympics USA Games will be held in venues in and around Seattle July 1–6.
More than 4,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will compete in 14 sports. Athletes compete in traditional sports such as track and field (called "athletics"), powerlifting, gymnastics and swimming, plus less-typical sports such as stand-up paddle boarding and bocce. Some 10,000 volunteers are needed to support the games.
While many volunteer positions are open only to teens ages 14 and up and adults, there are other options for kids and families — more on that below. Teens and adults can sign up for a required training session and at least one volunteer shift, doing jobs such as operating a scoreboard, keeping time, supporting officials and referees or escorting athletes during the Opening Ceremony, to be held at Husky Stadium on Sunday, July 1.
Follow the individual volunteer registration link to select both a training session and volunteer shift. Training sessions are two hours long and offered on weekends in June at a variety of locations including the Lake Washington School District Office in Redmond, Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma and the Mountlake Terrace Library. Volunteer shifts typically last a 5–6 hours (some last all day) and take place morning to evening June 29–July 7. Sign up soon to get your choice of assignments; they're filling fast.
For younger kids, there are a few opportunities to be "ball kids" at basketball games, held at Alaska Airlines Arena (still called Hec Ed by old timers) on the University of Washington campus, and soccer matches to be held at Championship Field at Seattle University. Volunteer ball kids can be any age, but should have a good understanding of the game and be able to follow directions well. Ball kid volunteer positions do require registering for a training session along with the shift. Ball kid positions are also filling up fast.
For families, there are two great opportunities to support the games and get a good view of athletes competing. "Fans in the stands" are needed for many competitions. Families can also sign up to stand in a "cheer line" at the opening ceremony and welcome the athletes to games' kick-off celebration. Register at the same link for these volunteer shifts, but no training session is required (select the "skip training session" option).