Special Olympics works with city to hold events

Marquette's Special Olympic Program has joined forces with the Milwaukee Public School system to form Team Milwaukee.

"It's a community-based Special Olympic program," said Jodie Theis, the Milwaukee Public School Special Olympics agency manager.

"We couldn't run a successful program without (Marquette volunteers)," Theis said.

Student volunteers work mostly behind the scenes during tournaments and other one-day events, according to senior Bridget Shramek, the group's president. They collect donations, referee games, and keep time and score.

"We hold two events," Shramek said. "In November, we have a volleyball tournament and in March, a soccer tournament."

In addition to helping during one-day events, students coach teams at local public school sites.

"I was a volleyball coach last year," said sophomore Alisyn Stuebner, the group's secretary. "It was fun to interact with the athletes. They would get so excited when they saw us coming.

Marquette is the only university in the United States to have a Special Olympics Organization. It began four years ago when it officially registered as a student organization with the Office of Student Development. Since then, the organization has grown in leaps and bounds, according to Shramek. This year, there are between 75 and 100 volunteers, coaching in volleyball, basketball and bowling.

"I have a cousin that has Down syndrome. She does Special Olympics and it sounded like fun," said sophomore Kirsten Klotz, a new volunteer.

The national Special Olympics program was created in the 1960s by Eunice Shriver and in 1968, the first international Special Olympics took place at Soldier Field in Chicago. Since then, the worldwide organization has helped people with cognitive disabilities achieve higher self-esteem through sports.

The Special Olympics Athlete Oath reads, "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Students can get involved in one-day tournaments or weekly coaching positions. For dates and times, volunteers can reach Bridget Shramek at specialolympics@marquette.edu or at the Special Olympics office, located across from the Brew Bayou on the first floor of the Alumni Memorial Union. The group also holds meetings the fourth Tuesday of each month at 8:30 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union, room 374.