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Special Olympics Communications Team volunteers with Joy Cheerleaders Gina Baldini, center, and Isabelle Cannito, front right. Volunteers from left: Polly Bruce, Sarah O'Toole, LaShawn Ware, Brian Smith, Steve Bruce and   Jill Hammergren. Not pictured: volunteer Nance Larsen.

Special Olympics Communications Team volunteers with Joy Cheerleaders Gina Baldini, center, and Isabelle Cannito, front right. Volunteers from left: Polly Bruce, Sarah O’Toole, LaShawn Ware, Brian Smith, Steve Bruce and
Jill Hammergren. Not pictured: volunteer Nance Larsen.

The following is a guest post by Jill Hammergren, a Special Olympics Communications Team volunteer at the 2015 World Games. 

We’ve all heard and seen the holiday classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” where a grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. But his plan goes awry when he discovers that no matter what he does to the Whos or what he takes from this community, they refuse to be deterred from letting their joy, their love for one another, their peals of laughter, and their spirit of humanity burst forth. We learned that the Grinch suffered from a heart that was two sizes too small.

But when the Grinch paused and took time to listen to what the Whos were singing:

Christmas day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp.

The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

We can learn a lot from this fictional world. At times, stress can bring out our inner Grinches. As a volunteer at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, I am one of 30,000 volunteers who are giving their time, leaving their jobs and families behind in far away places, putting in long hours, enduring hot, sticky temperatures, skipping meals or eating burgers late at night and getting very little sleep. It’s easy to feel that ugly inner Grinch seeping into our bodies. When this happens, Dr. Seuss’ words fill my mind:

My heart is full of unwashed socks. My soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch! The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,     “Stink, stank, stunk”!

But then a murmur will fill my ears. One such murmur came this week from the table next to me during a late night meal with our team. It was the sound of joy, love, laughter and excitement. I recognized 18-year-old Gina Baldini and nine-year-old Isabelle Cannito, two of the Special Olympics Joy Cheerleaders. I saw them earlier in the day at the Gymnastics venue encouraging athletes, fans, families, and volunteers to open their hearts and minds to what the 6,500 Special Olympics from 165 different countries are doing this week. Gina and Isabelle were excitedly talking about what their experience at the Games meant to them.

Our team shared with them that we were volunteers at the Games. Suddenly, Gina and Isabelle jumped up and ran around our table, and one by one each Special Olympics athlete threw her arms around our necks and pulled us in close for the most rewarding embraces. The love that came from those tiny bodies filled me with something that can only be described as pure, unadulterated joy. I felt my heart swell three sizes that night and all those Grinchy thoughts and attitudes were wonderfully gone!

Welcome Special Olympics. Bring your cheer, Cheer to all athletes, far and near.

A Brand New Day is in our grasp. So long as we have hands to grasp.

A changing world will always be, just as long as we have we.

Welcome athletes, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand..

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