"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
That is the inspirational athlete’s oath of the Special Olympics, written by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. It was her determination to see individuals with intellectual disabilities or other cognitive delays treated with respect and given the opportunity to compete that led to the establishment of the first games, held in Chicago in 1968.
Just two years later, Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) became an official chapter, holding games that attracted 135 athlete participants. This June, the SOPA games will have approximately 2,000 athletes and nearly 3,000 volunteers, including many Geisinger employees, who help to make the event not just a reality, but a world-class event.
Clare Walsh Miller, senior vice president of programming for Special Olympics Pennsylvania, said the games would not be possible without volunteer professionals like Geisinger’s Jayme Galdieri, his team of certified athletic trainers and many others.
“Besides the wonderful coaches and staff who travel with the athletes, we need a huge number of volunteers to help us with every aspect of the games,” she said. “Whether acting as timers, handing out lunches or escorting athletes to their venues or lanes, there is something almost anyone can do,” Ms. Miller said. “The people who help range from Girl Scout troops to local citizens to volunteers who drive in from all over the state. And one of the constants is our partnership with Geisinger.”
Ms. Miller said that many of the athletes have multiple diagnoses and some have little experience being away from home and family. “All our volunteers try to make our athletes feel welcomed and secure,” she said. “Jayme is a kind yet commanding presence, year after year. He has taken on many duties in his time with Special Olympics, and now coordinates almost everything for the talented athletic trainers who give generously of their time and expertise. Just as important, his enthusiasm ensures that everyone on his team is excited about what they are doing.”