As you may know, the Olympic opening ceremony is today — as a matter of fact, it’ll have already taken place by the time you read. Whether you love ’em, hate ’em, or love/hate ’em, you gotta respect the athletes and the superhuman feats that will ensue over the next few weeks. Personally, my love for the Olympics stems from the fact that sports have always played an outsized role in my life. Some of my best friends — including my current roommate — were made because of them. Besides providing an invaluable physical outlet, they also foster community.
That’s why I thought it’d be fitting to invite Special Olympics Washington to be The Evergrey’s next guest for our Have a drink with series. If you missed our chat with David Wu — Special Olympics Washington’s CEO — you can find that here. You can read our Q&A with him below (Answers have been edited for length and clarity):
Why is it important that something like Special Olympics exists?
The Special Olympics allows [our athletes] to focus on their health and well-being. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities have challenges with other portions of their bodies developing in the right way. So this is really helpful to those individuals.
What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is the awakening that people have when they interact with our athletes and how much more they get out of the meaning of life when they do that.
We have high school kids and college kids that all work through our Unified Champion Schools program where students play alongside our athletes or practice with them. What they wake up realizing is that these individuals aren't that different from them. They have a true awakening about what it means to be inclusive.
How did the organization pivot during the pandemic?
You know, we are grateful to the community for their amazing support. I'm really proud of the way our organization pivoted during the pandemic to take things virtually.
We created our programs online, to make sure that we could still provide a sense of community and help them focus on wellness — both mentally and physically. Our athletes are six times more likely to have serious significant challenges from COVID just because of their disability, so they have to be super careful and therefore they were feeling very isolated. They needed us more than ever.
How can Evergrey readers and anyone else support Special Olympics Washington?
We are supported entirely by individual, corporate, and foundation contributions. Every gift that is made to us goes toward providing free and accessible opportunities for our athletes.
You can donate to Special Olympics Washington right here and find volunteer opportunities here.
Who or what are five local groups or people you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Alejandro Hall (CEO of the Woodland Park Zoo), Global Washington, Steve Davis (former chief executive of PATH), King County Play Equity Coalition, and Friends of Waterfront.