1999 special olympic world summer games.

as i was driving home from north carolina yesterday, i had an incredible sense of deja vu and had to just laugh out loud at the memory.
in 1999, i volunteered along with two of my friends at the special olympic world summer games. the summer games were held in raleigh, north carolina and we were there two weeks volunteering for the games.  
it was awesome and i loved every minute of it.  the games are very official and no joke, even though all the athletes participating have to be mentally challenged, with IQ's ranging from low to higher, there were some very skilled athletes there.  at no point were you able to "help" an athlete, the games are as much like the actual olympics as they can be.  if you prompted or helped an athlete with a lower IQ, the athlete would be disqualified.  i helped in the long jump pit. one athlete jumped 13 centimeters (and i am not kidding, i have the stats) and then there were others that had some crazy incredible jumps.  
the fella that jumped thirteen centimeters had a very obvious low IQ.  
i am not sure he even knew where he was, but he was there and participating and won in his division.  everyone deserves to be praised for accomplishments every now and then, no matter how big or small.  after he jumped, he stood in the pit and just looked around. we could not clap or prompt him to get out of the pit on the correct side, provided if he got out on the wrong side, he would have been disqualified.  after much thought, he finally got out on the right side and was a metaled athlete in his division.  it was awesome.  i could tell you story after story of athletes like this fella to marathon runners that were incredible.  
there were many famous athletes that also volunteered and rallied the athletes.  arnold palmer, sugar ray, michael jordan...and many more. the volunteers were all instructed that if we ran into one of the celebrities, we were not to take picture with them, get autographs or make a big deal. they were here for the athletes.  if the volunteers were caught doing any of this, they would be asked to leave.  when i heard this craziness, i leaned over to my friends and said, "look.  if i run into michael jordan.  i am asking for an autograph and picture.  if we get the boot, we get the boot."  we never ran into him. it wasn't for lack of trying.  trust me.
we worked hard, long days.  most days our day would start at 6 am and not end til late in the evening, by the end of two weeks, we were all exhausted, but a good exhausted.  the last day we were there, one of my friends shift was not quite as long, so she had some down time. so when we headed home in my red plymouth sundance without air conditioner, we convinced her to drive for a while since she had had some down time the day before.  the  problem was...my car was a stick shift and she had never driven a stick.  but after much talk and deliberation, i convinced her once she got on the interstate, she would keep in in fifth gear and go...and when she got to the mountains to wake me up and i would take over.  
we got her on the interstate, she pushed the clutch while i changed the gears and got her into fifth.  seriously, wake me up when you start coming down the mountains, because it will be too much.  and she was off and my other friend and myself were exhausted and out cold. drooling and snoring probably.  after what seemed like an eternity, i woke up only to look over at my i have never driven a stick shift and i am driving one currently and i am in the middle of the mountains! friend.  she was grasping the steering wheel with both hands and her eyes were bugging out of her head, as she descended at a very rapid pace down the mountain.  i am pretty calm under pressure so i said, "get off the next exit, i will help you.  i will drive.  why didn't you wake us???"  she said we were sleeping so good that she hated to wake us.  and when i tell you she was clutching the wheel, she was CLUTCHING the steering wheel, scared and freaking out while the two other people in the car that knew how to drive a stick, were snoozing.  apparently, she was a better friend than we were. 
we made it home, thanks to some empty coke bottles (used as microphones) and some blaring dixie chicks.  many thanks go out to coca-cola and the dixie chicks, or i might not be here today.

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