Area Youth Make a Difference at Special Olympics 2019

Inclusion Revolution and Life Changing were two terms used throughout this past week by over 120 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Westlake/Cleveland Metro Area, including 100 youth.

They donated their time and resources from this year’s Youth Conference to the Special Olympics held in Columbus Ohio.

Youth Conference was all about service. The participants constructed 25 prosthetic hands from “Hands of Gratitude”. It is a unique team building program in which participants assemble 3D printed prosthetic hands needed by tens of thousands of people from around the world, including the United States.

“The Program is a life changing and eye opening event. The 3D assisted devices are donated at no cost to a recipient but the experience for both the builder and the recipient is invaluable,” says Sandra Hruza, LDS Public Affairs.

“It all started last year,” said Teri Hinckley of Strongsville, The Stake Young Women’s President. “In 2018, we asked our Co-chairs to attend last year’s Special Olympics 2018 from the advice of my daughter. Two of them, Ainsley Steele and Curtis Delap, went down to Columbus with two of our Stake Youth Program leaders, Bryan Hassler and Theresa Anderson. They all absolutely loved it!

“They knew then, that we would need two days of serving with the Special Olympics, but we also wanted to do family history work. So the six Co-Chairs put together a PowerPoint presentation for the Presidency of their congregation on why they needed three days instead of two for Youth Conference. President Michael Snyder was so impressed, but he still asked dozens of questions to each of us there. He wanted to remind us that we were using sacred funds and all the questions he had, needed to be answered and thought about prayerfully.”

With a continued sense of purpose and model of inclusion, both youth and leaders recited the Special Olympics Volunteer Oath. “I promise to give of the time in my life so that Special Olympics athletes can have the time of their lives. I promise to support Special Olympics, not just as an expression of charity, but as a form of respect for my fellow human beings. I promise to spread the word of volunteerism because, in giving, I receive so much more in return.”

The Youth packed 4600 lunches for Special Olympics, they served dinner and were greeters (Greeters cheer wildly for the athletes and their families as they come to dinner, lots of high fives and fist bumps!) Saturday they had the privilege of working the Special Olympics Track and Field Games, which they supervised through the day. They served, cheered and realized that all who participated were winners, coming in 1st place or 6th place wasn’t of importance. But, watching the athletes themselves cheering and embracing one another, they learned what unconditional love to all is about.

Jared Olsen, The Stake Young Men’s President said, “Never forget how powerful small acts of service can be in other people’s lives, whether it be supporting and serving special needs athletes during the Special Olympics, family history or just encouraging your peers to do their best and loving them unconditionally just like the athletes we witnessed this weekend did. When you serve others with love as the motivation, you are creating miracles in others’ lives as well as your own. You are more influential and powerful than you know.”

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