Special Olympics athletes give back to Montana community

BILLINGS — Special Olympics Montana is making a comeback for the first time in two years after being sidelined due to COVID. While many attendees are excited about the games, Special Olympics isn’t just about competing athletes. It’s also about giving back to the community, which happened at the Montana Rescue Mission in Billings over the holidays.

You’ve seen their incredible stories: Special Olympics Montana athletes doing incredible things on the field of play. But what’s equally impressive is what they do off the field.

“I was here over Christmas and helped set the tables, made the cards they have,” said Krystin Thompson, a Special Olympics athlete.

Thompson participates in both soccer and bowling and also volunteers through the organization’s donation program. It’s an initiative that started with simple acts of kindness during the holidays.

“I feel like kindness multiplies. So if they do the smallest things and we started like asking them to shovel their neighbor’s walk if they have an elderly neighbor, hold the door of Walmart, just something that can make someone’s day brighter,” says Kimberley Farley, Athlete Leadership Coordinator for Yellowstone Valley.

The program has since blossomed. These athletes are now doing amazing things in the community every day, giving back to those who gave to them.

“And that they understand the importance of giving back. It makes you feel good, helps our community and builds culture,” Farley said.

Lessons learned by doing, whether kicking a soccer ball or doing community service, are exactly what Special Olympics is all about.

“Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to give up everything. It means you can do just about anything you want,” Thompson said.

Naomi C. Amerson