Lessons I’ve Learned From The Special Olympics

Starting in 2017, I wanted to make a bigger impact in my management role, something beyond the normal studio activities. I was lucky enough to team up with Special Olympics Washington and, after starting a trial period class which later became an ongoing class, would like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

THE HARDEST PART IS THE FIRST STEP

– Wanting to do something outside of your comfort zone, outside of the norm, is easier said than done when you don’t know where to start. So I decided I’d put it out there and brought up my goal to some of our students. After a few mentioned Special Olympics, I thought: “Why not get involved?” Then, as my goal starting taking shape, another student put me in touch with the right people and before I knew it a meeting was set up with the CEO of Special Olympics Washington. It’s not always easy getting the ball rolling, but if you ask enough people for help, before you know it you’ll have taken your first step.

EVEN TEACHERS ARE AFRAID OF REJECTION

– After falling in love with the organization during my meeting with the CEO, Dave, we set up an eight week trial period ballroom dance course. I waited all month, nervously hoping someone, anyone, would show up, all while fearing that no one else would be as excited as me. February 4th happened, and sure enough, one-by-one, they approached me in their own particular way with bright, big smiles. Kind of like that quote about it being better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, that was how this felt. The risk was worth it, because the reward was greater than anything I could have imagined.

AN ATHLETE’S APPROACH TO ANYTHING IN LIFE IS INSPIRING

– There’s a lot anyone can learn from how athletes approach anything in life. What amazed me the most was not only their attentiveness during the class and their excitement/willingness to try something new, but also their dedication and perseverance. It was incredible!

EVEN TEACHERS ARE AFRAID OF REJECTION, PART 2

– One class down, and now I was afraid they’d tried it and wouldn’t want to come back. That would’ve been particularly tough because that would mean I’d failed to show them the joy ballroom dance could bring to their lives. Not only did all 12 show up, we added four more! And then I nervously asked them to perform at our upcoming Spotlight Ball because I expected only a quarter of them to agree, but 100 percent agreed. This was exactly the kind of enthusiasm and joy I had only hoped would occur! It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it and has reaffirmed the rightness of my decision to do something larger than myself.

Moral of the story? Just do it. Sure, it’s the Nike slogan, but they’re doing something right because they’ve sold millions of shoes, whereas I’m telling you to just get out there. Be bold, be fearless, be vulnerable. These very same qualities are what make us who we are. Be it the Olympics, Special Olympics, a book club, or a bowling team, I find the person to be an inspiration who is able to blindly walk into a studio knowing little to nothing about what they’re getting into and still have the courage and enthusiasm to follow-through. And it doesn’t matter who you are, dancing truly is for everyone.

Two quick notes:

– Thank you to the volunteers who contributed countless hours over the weeks, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible

– If you or anyone you know is interested in Special Olympics, please reach out to me at kellyambellevue@gmail.com

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