When Geisinger athletic trainer Jayme Galdieri first volunteered to work at Special Olympics 15 years ago, he was still attending Kings College in Wilkes-Barre and studying to become a certified athletic trainer. He thought volunteering would be a valuable addition to his résumé and a chance to get away to the site of the Games — Penn State University’s main campus — for a new experience. It didn’t take long for that decision to become a life-changing moment for the then-19-year-old.
“I fell in love with it,” said Mr. Galdieri, who is now the head athletic trainer for the Misericordia University football team. “I promised myself that once I was certified, I would come back and continue to volunteer at the Games.” Today, he works there through a partnership between Special Olympics of Pennsylvania and Geisinger.
Since 2012, Mr. Galdieri has been an athletic training coordinator for the Special Olympics, recruiting other certified athletic trainers from around the state and managing all the details of housing and assigning 40 to 50 of them, who volunteer their time during that weekend every June. He hasn’t missed volunteering, even when one year the date changed and the Games conflicted with his wedding. “I didn’t get to work the whole weekend, but I did volunteer on Thursday, then drove back for the rehearsal dinner on Friday,” he said. The spirit of volunteering is something he shares with his wife Desiree, and he said they expect that this will be a family tradition when their 3-year-old daughter, Gianna, is a little older.
In all, 13 Geisinger certified athletic trainers will assist, treat and work with the 2,000 athletes who compete at this year’s Games. Mr. Galdieri said that working with Special Olympics Pennsylvania is the best way he’s ever found to gain perspective. “When you see how hard these athletes work and the dedication of the hundreds of coaches and volunteers, it helps you understand how small many of life’s other challenges really are.”