LEAD TEAM: SOMI

This year I had the honors of serving as the CO-Chair with Hannah Rickers for the Special Olympics Michigan LEAD team. It has been my favorite and most rewarding leadership position at CMU so far. Hannah and I took a group to the 2015 SOMI Fall games, and facilitated an unified group together at the first ever Leadership Launch. The SOMI Lead Team was organized a little different this year due to the new event of Leadership Launch, and having such a time crunch from the start of the school year to the weekend of the fall games, but it ended up all working out perfectly.

The 2015 SOMI Fall Games: 

The fall games took place from September 25th – 27th located in Ypsilanti, MI. Hannah and I had trouble planning who was coming with us to the event, since only the Leadership Launch was required for our LEAD Team. The weekend also landed on a busy weekend with sorority recruitment weekend and the Michigan State VS. CMU football game at state. We tried to make sure our LEAD Team members understood the importance of this weekend, and many did end up coming with but we found more LAS members to take the place of students that could not attend. Even with last minute planning and cramming I really saw the weekend as a success. Every volunteer there was full of enthusiasm, passion, and professionalism; I was very proud of the group that came along. They showed me they truly cared about Special Olympics, and made such a difference at the games. I had a smile on my face the entire weekend because of the athletes I interacted with, as well as the outstanding personalities of our volunteers.

I was lucky enough to be one of the individuals that arrived before the games started to be a part of the Young Athlete program, which is my absolute favorite part of the fall games. The year before at Young Athletes I met a beautiful young girl named Abi who I feel in love with, and now I am still lucky enough to be in contact with her and her mother. Her mom could not attend the fall games with her this year, so we communicated to make sure I could spend the day with her at the program, since she was a very shy little girl. I was honored and excited to take care of her. We arrived a little late, but once I saw Abi we both ran to hug each other. All the teachers of her school knew I was coming, and welcomed me to hang out with Abi and her classmates. It was amazing to see the difference in Abi from a year before, she grew into a brave little girl who put a lot of trust in me. We got to play a ton of fun activities together, and her favorite was still soccer. Between each game they played music to move to the next station, and Abi and I loved to dance. Her laugh and smile was so beautiful to see, and I could not believe how much she has grown. Abi is truly an inspiration that I will never go a day without thinking about. She has inspired me to work with children, and continue to help young one’s growth and develop. I am so thankful Special Olympics has brought me to her. 

Then later that day it was Opening Ceremonies for the games, and my group of CMU students jobs were to welcome the athletes with happy and smiling facing. Many of us cheered and danced, and gave the athletes high fives as they walked into the room. It let me know that this weekend was going to be a great one. I was proud that everyone was showing so much energy and happiness, and most importantly acceptance.

Then the next day our LEAD Team was advised to volunteer with golf! Most of us were put into pairs then assigned golfers to drive around on golf carts and cheer them on as they played their round of golf. The golf course was HUGE, and beautiful, but very easy to get lost. I was placed with a female golfer named Ruth, and my volunteer pair was my mentee, Maddie. We had such a fun day getting to know Ruth. The day was full of laughter when I drove the golf cart to the wrong hole, or when we had to squeeze our three butts into a cart made for two people. We were lucky enough to let Dan Gaken capture a photo of us when we get stuck on a curb, Ruth laughed at me so hard. Ruth was also an amazing golfer, she ended up taking first place that day! Maddie and I were both so proud of her, and it was an amazing experience being a part of her day.

Then after our day volunteering with golf we got to be a part of the closing ceremonies, that was followed by a dance after that. Let me tell you, these athletes LOVE to dance. Being at the dance is way too much fun to describe. It’s a room full of so many smiles. It’s a room full of boys hitting on girls and asking them to dance, it’s just a hoot. I was lucky enough to even receive a few surprise kisses on the cheek from some athletes. I also never had an opportunity to be dancing alone, because everyone always has a part and everyone is always welcomed on the dance floor.                                   

The SOMI Fall Games is an opportunity that is hard to explain, and something you need to experience for yourself to understand. It’s a place where I found myself, and it’s a place where you are 100% accepted for who you are, and what you can do; not what you cant’t do. It’s a place where everyone loves everyone, and no one is left behind. It’s a weekend full of laughter and happiness, and I never want it to end. I volunteered with SOMI my first time freshmen year at the first ever fall games and I fell in love. I now continue to volunteer with the Special Olympics, because it’s the happiest thing to be a part of. Make volunteering with SOMI on your bucket list, you won’t regret the experience.

The 2015 Leadership Launch: 

The Leadership Launch was a new program that was created by a wonderful women named Kim Sampson. She created this event with the lovely Jesi Parker, that was accepted for approval at the SoGenUIn Summit at the World Special Olympics Games located in LA! Thanks to Kim and Jesi, Hannah and I got a be a big part of this new and improved created event. Kim envisioned an event where youth are activating youth to make a change. The Leadership Launch taught a group of unified (group with and without intellectual disabilities) students about leadership. Everyone was broken up into four different groups who went through four different group activities involving the topics of respect, inclusion, inspiration, and empowerment. 

Hannah and I facilitated the inclusion activity throughout the day, we did the (y)-knot activity. The group got into a circle, and was given a ball of yarn. The person with the yarn would have to say something about themselves, for example “I like to swim”, and then someone that likes that that too would say, “Me too!” Then you would pass the yarn to someone who had the same thing in common with you, while still holding onto a piece of yarn. In the end a huge web was created to show community and inclusion. The point was for everyone to understand we are all connected in someway. This was very cool for some students, especially for the students that tend to always feel left out. 

The thing I got out most of that day was seeing how empowered all the students were to make a change in their high school. So many of those students are left without a voice in their school and community, but still want to make a difference. When a group of students with and without intellectual disabilities comes together really creates significant change and it was just very amazing and inspiring to see. It was outstanding to see students help other students convey their thoughts and opinions, and to accept everyone’s ideas. All the students came from Michigan high schools who wanted to make a change, they want everyone to feel accepted and that’s truly life changing. A main thing we discussed throughout the day is that our generation is most accepting to people with disabilities, and that is HUGE! That is so important and so amazing, because this is the generation making the change for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It’s truly amazing to be a part of that accepting movement.

I am so thankful and grateful for being a part of this LEAD Team and being involved with SOMI, I can’t thank the Leadership Institute and CMU for these amazing opportunities. 

Polar Plunge 2016

The Polar Plunge: the jump into freezing cold to spread awareness of the Michigan Special Olympics. This year on February 20th, was my first time every doing the Polar Plunge in Mount Pleasant, MI. I did the Polar Plunge in my hometown about six years ago to raise money for our local community pool and swim team, but I swore I would never do it again — but …  Michigan Special Olympics is something worth breaking that oath for.

As a CMU student, I was hand chosen to be on the Student Polar Plunge Committee, which was created to help promote and advertise the plunge. Thanks to all of our committee’s work, Mount Pleasant had the biggest plunge statewide.  Mount Pleasant raised over $70,000 for SOMI (Special Olympics Michigan).

I was on the Leadership Institute team, who raised the most money as a CMU group with $7,220 raised. As an individual I raised $1,205, which I tied with Hannah Rickers for the most money individually raised by a CMU student! I was honored to share this title with Hannah because she is a role model of mine that I always look up too, especially when it comes to being passion about and involved with SOMI.

The day of the plunge we expected over 490 plungers, and that is over 490 people that are advocating for people with and without intellectual disabilities; that’s truly impact. It’s not just about raising money to take a brave jump into freezing cold water, it’s about raising money for the happiest people on this earth. People with physical and intellectual disabilities are outstanding individuals that are worth getting to know, and that’s why I participated in the plunge.

The plunge donations were collected through firstgiving.com, or you could also receive cash/check donations. My site is called http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/megan-nemetz/MtPleasant16. Where people donated and read my story about how I am involved with SOMI.

Special Olympics Michigan is close to my heart, and I am so proud of this community for standing up for this cause. Also I want to thank my friends, family, and my community members for supporting me and helping make it possible for me to raise over 1,000 dollars. My first goal was set at $300, and I was lucky enough to set that goal to $1,000 thanks to all the tremendous amount of support. It was incredible to see family members, old teachers, and old friends donate to my page. I even had strangers donate to my page thanks to spreading awareness by the word oft mouth. I can not thank everyone enough for supporting me with my passion, but more importantly supporting the Special Olympics Michigan.

Special Olympics Basketball Tournament

This weekend I volunteered for a Special Olympic basketball tournament ran by district seven. This is the second Special Olympic event I volunteered for, and I just can’t get enough of it. These athletes are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. They have such a positive attitude and determined mind set. The tournament was at Shepard middle school and high school. Each court was divided into different skill set level to make the teams far. I got to keep stats for multiple games through the day. I was happy to spend my Saturday at this tournament. Taking stats is usually a boring job but I really enjoyed seeing all the Special Olympic Athletes try there best for their time.  Not only did I bond with the athletes, I met new people at also attend CMU. I brought my roommate along this time to share the wonderful experience with me. I loved seeing her face during this new opportunity for her.  Also the head of district seven invited us to stay involved with these particular district of athletes, which I am really looking forward to. Special Olympics will always have a place in my heart. I can’t describes these events in words really well. I highly suggest to try to be apart of such an amazing program. They are truly amazing people.

Michigan Fall Special Olympics

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I got an amazing opportunity to be apart of the Michigan Fall Special Olympics. I was apart of a committee that organized activities for project unify and the Special Olympics. The group from CMU got to run a leadership session for project unify, help young athletes participate in events, and help run the golf section of the Michigan Fall Special Olympics. Every opportunity was so amazing. Not only did I bond with athletes, I also bonded with other students at CMU. One girl named Jen and I became really close friends by the end of the weekend. IMG_7355You always need to cherish every opportunity or experience you are given because you can never expect the outcome that you will receive. I made many lasting friendships and memories that weekend. My favorite part of the weekend was the two hour period we got to play with the young athletes in an arrange of different activities. There’s where I met a little girl named Abi. There isn’t words for how perfect of a little girl Abi is. She is just so precious I could not be help but to fall in love with a such a cute little girl. After this wonderful experience I wrote a paper on Abi. She changed my life more than she will ever realize, but spending that time with her was honestly the best memory I have of my entire life. And I would like to share this experience that I always remember…

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I will never forget the sparkle in her eyes that reminded me of myself when I was a child. Her excitement and happiness was astonishing, but yet, sometimes still hidden by her shyness. I will always be able to replay the moment in my mind when she ran up and hugged me as tight as she possibly could. That instant I knew she accepted me into her life, and I felt the impact of change in my own life. On Friday, September 16th, I met a little girl named Abi, during the 2014 Special Olympic Fall Games of Michigan. There was a connection built between us in little over than an hour that would last for the rest of our lives. Abi made me change my attitude and outlook on life within a small period of time.
During the Michigan Special Olympic Fall Games we received about two hours to spend time and socialize with young special Olympic athletes. That’s where I met Abi. Abi is a really young girl, no older than five. She had two curly brown hair pig tails that brushed her face, and deep pretty brown eyes, just like my own. She was almost a mirrored image of myself when I was that age. I could not help but notice her curiosity and wisdom across the room. In this room there were set up sport stations for the young athletes to participate in. One of the first stations I helped Abi participate in was the golf station. At first she was a little hesitant with me helping her, but she soon learned I was there for pure encouragement and support. Little did she realize that I was actually learning more from her than she was form me.
Shortly after the golfing station, Abi and I got a chance to briefly talk. Even though she didn’t say much, I could still understand by reading her body language and facial expressions. At the time we were waiting to move to our next station, which was the soccer station. I asked her if she liked soccer, and she shook her head with excitement. She kept whispering, “Bubba.” Soon I found out, by talking to her mother, that Bubba is her brother who plays soccer. Abi likes to kick the ball around at home with him, and she soon showed me that she can kick the ball pretty far for how tiny she is. Then the next station we got to participate in was the bowling station. This is where she put a lot of trust in me and let me help her guide and push the bowling ball down the lane. After we got done bowling she jumped into my arms with eyes full of joy, and that’s when I felt the power of change come across me. With so little time, a young girl as herself, had so much confidence in me. In that embrace, we felt a connection that could never be broken.
Then Abi and I moved onto the football throwing station.IMG_7425 This is where I really saw Abi’s true colors. She would repetitively pick up the football with so much confidence and hit the target every time. She was a strong little girl inside and out. I would continue to give her a smile and a cheer with every accomplishment she kept making. Then once at that football station she hit the target, looked back up at me and gave me the biggest smile back. I felt a complete rush of acceptance fill my body. I was also pretty sure the feeling was mutual. Abi starting holding my hand as we would go from station to station. As we walked towards the flag football station she pulled back with hesitation and would not let go of my hand. The object of the station was to chase the runner and pull off the flags, but since I was not the runner she would be chasing she did not want to participate. The runner was a stranger that she wanted nothing to do with. Then I decided to put on the flag belt so she would still participate. She ran across that room chasing me with a full smile painted on her face. IMG_7426I never heard so much laughter come out of a little girl’s mouth. That was the last event we got to participate in, but it was the best one. I got to see her whole personality come out just in a few minutes of playing. She trusted me and only me. We had so much fun together. I felt like I was a little kid in spirit. I felt the mutual feeling of being ourselves, because we weren’t scared to be whoever we wanted to be around each other.
Then the last thing we got to do together was the awards ceremony. Abi led me in a crowd of other athletes to sit down with her for the awards ceremony. During it she used my pompom to cheer on other young athletes, which was a proud moment in my life. By watching me cheer her on throughout the day she learned to cheer others on to make them happy. Our positive attitudes were rubbing off on each other. Then it was finally her turn to receive her medal from competing that day. She stood up with so much pride and confidence, but at the same time really modest about it. I got to see Abi blossom, just like a flower does from a simple seed. She started off so shy and distant from me, but showed her true colors by the end.
Abi showed me more in life than just having a fun time. She showed me how to be true to yourself, and how to stay positive with whatever life throws at you. During that whole two hours our relationship became so strong, but during those two hours I did not notice Abi’s disability. To me she was just a normal little girl that became my little sister, not a girl with autism. She made me realize that you need to enjoy life at every moment and opportunity that you have. Simple things like cheering people on made the experience so much more beneficial for the both of us. I set the best example I could for Abi, but really she became my new role model in life. She taught me to look at life in a whole new perspective. Instead of worrying about failing or having obstacles placed in your way, just live your life. Be yourself in every way possible. Abi has so much will power she could accomplish anything she puts her mind to. In my eyes, Abi is a superhero that changed my life.

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