Sean Kelly describes himself as “somewhat of an overseer” when it comes to his volunteer work with the Special Olympics.
But over the course of his involvement with the organization, Kelly has done much more than that. The Lower Sackville resident was the recipient of the Elizabeth Shard (chairman’s) award at a Special Olympics Nova Scotia gala in January for donating almost 30 years of his time.
“It’s one of those groups, once you get involved a little bit you’re hooked when you’re around the athletes and see the fraternity they show each other, the love they show each other, the unity, the way they support each other,” Kelly said.
“Even if they’re on another team they’ll cheer for them. And that’s not really something you see that much in the real world,” he said. “In 27 years I can’t recall a harsh word between them. Any of them.”
Kelly’s work with the Special Olympics began when his Knights of Columbus group first took up the cause 27 years ago. The Sackville chapter runs the annual Knights of Columbus Invitational Special Olympics track and field meet at Metropolitan Field. The event is a feeder to the provincial games.
“Then about 13 years ago, our head office challenged all Knights to get more involved with Special Olympics,” Kelly explained.
“At that point in time I was given the job of what we call State Special Olympics chairman for the Knights across the province.”
Kelly described his volunteer job as two-fold. The first part is encouraging other Knights of Columbus chapters across the province to get involved with the Special Olympics movement. He then works with them as they organize their events.
“I think last year across the province we (raised) about $29,000 and spent a little over 5,000 man hours putting on events and that kind of thing, so it’s not just the money, it’s the time,” Kelly said.
“Lots of groups give more money to them but we are probably one of the biggest as far as putting time in to put things on for them. That was one part of my new job.”
The second part is assisting the Special Olympics office with their provincial games. The Knights’ involvement with that event keeps Kelly tied up for the whole weekend. He also helps with fundraising through the Knights to help provide buses to transport the athletes during the games.
Kelly estimates he spends about 600 volunteer hours a year helping Special Olympics on behalf of the Knights.
“The coaches, the volunteers the staff they all give the charity the gift of their time and talent and that quite truthfully in today’s world time and talent is more precious than treasure,” he said.
“Anybody can write a cheque for $50. It’s a little harder to give a Saturday afternoon.”
Kelly said he encourages people to consider volunteering for the Special Olympics because he has enjoyed every minute of it.
“They always have a smile on their face, they’re always looking at the bright side and they can really teach you a lot about what it is to be a human being,” he said. The (Special Olympics) athletes end up teaching you to be the best that you can be.”
“When you work with them you come away with a sense of fulfillment. While you’re giving something you’re getting a whole lot more back.”
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