For many, summer weekends are the best opportunity to go to the beach, mountains or other favorite get away and relaxation spots. School is out, the days are longer and the air just smells a little sweeter. As a partner of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s Together Counts™ program, we realize that summer is also a great time to develop new skills, meet new people and explore new areas of interest. Volunteering with the Special Olympics Health Promotion provides all of these opportunities and more.
Why volunteer? Volunteering is much more than doing a good thing. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that volunteering improves psychological and physical health. As a volunteer you receive the benefits of a sense of accomplishment, giving to others and positive feedback for your time and skills. You are contributing your unique skills, life experiences and time. Volunteering can even introduce you to new career path.
Think about the organization(s) you volunteer for. You provide a free resource to help meet its mission. Your time and skills fill a gap, extend program services and make a difference to individuals receiving services from the organization.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to make a difference in your community. Never underestimate the difference you can make.
For example, members from the Massachusetts Dietetics Association (MDA) are active volunteers for the Massachusetts Special Olympics Summer Games. Ranging from experienced dietitians, dietetic interns, college students and new graduates, they work together to promote healthful eating and active lifestyles to Special Olympics athletes, coaches, family members and friends. More than 20 MDA members volunteered recently, providing health screenings and health education during the Massachusetts 2015 Summer Games.
The MDA volunteers indicated some of their reasons for volunteering were to: give back to their profession, connect with and strengthen the community, make a difference in people’s lives and act as role models for students and younger family members.
When sharing tips and information about health habits in a fun and interactive manner, athletes and families were more receptive to listening and it resulted in a good discussion. Balancing physical activity and food choices was an important concept. Information on the importance of hydration throughout the day, sun safety and physical activity were just a few of the key messages given. Emphasis on calcium-rich foods, including low-fat dairy products was an important education opportunity.
Consider using your skills and abilities to volunteer with Special Olympics or other health and physical activity programs in your community. You will not be disappointed. If you are interested in volunteering contact the Special Olympics organization in your state or Alice Lenihan at email@example.com.
Alice Lenihan is the Senior Global Clinical with the Health Promotion, Healthy Athletes Program, Special Olympics. She is a Registered Dietitian with over thirty years experience in public health and nutrition.
For more fun ways to get active in your community, check out these other fun articles from Together Counts!