ASU student volunteers for Special Olympics while her sister competes

With her sister competing as a track participant, Kelly McCormack has volunteered for the organization since she was in high school

For ASU communications senior Kelly McCormack, volunteering with the Special Olympics is a family affair.

Kelly got involved with The Special Olympics to support her sister, Meghan McCormack, who has Down Syndrome. Kelly has been volunteering with the organization for the past five years while her sister competes. Meghan is currently a competitor in track and has previously competed as a swimmer.

Since starting her volunteer work in high school, Kelly has interned with the Special Olympics. 

“As a person, Special Olympics has impacted me a lot," Kelly said. "My older sister was born with a disability and it was hard for me as I got older. I remember kids always asking me 'why is your sister like that?'"

Kelly said even though she knew the questions were just childish curiosity, it always made her feel uncomfortable.

"When I began going to my sister's events more and volunteering more, it helped me accept and love my sister for who she was, and she's awesome,” Kelly said.

She said her studies as a communication student have benefited her in further understanding the Special Olympics and its impact. 

“I think that my choice of major runs a parallel with being involved at Special Olympics," Kelly said. "I am a communication major and it has a lot to do with understanding and listening to people. I think that volunteering for Special Olympics helps you learn to understand people better.”

Patti McCormack, Meghan and Kelly's mom, started getting involved in the competition to support her daughter. The McCormack family has been a part of this organization for just over 15 years.

"I started out volunteering as a local coordinator for the Shelton Special Olympics teams in Connecticut," Patti said. "From there, I shifted my role and my husband, Jim and I started to coach our daughter's track team."

For Meghan, the biggest thrill is seeing her family on the sidelines. 

“I love when my family comes to see me compete," Meghan said. "And it's always fun when my mom and dad help coach me. Kelly comes to my games when she is home and she will hang out in the tent with me and my friends in between games which is really fun.”

Patti said she's seen growth at the Special Olympics during her many years volunteering and coaching. The Special Olympics' Family Support Network helps the competition grow exponentially by building up communities, sharing links and essentially spreading the word in general.

“I have seen events get bigger and I have seen more people involved especially volunteers," Patti said. "It’s great to see so many young people getting involved."

Now, with more than 20 sports offered, this gives athletes, including Meghan, a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

“Competing means trying my best to get a medal," Meghan said. "I have a whole box of gold medals on my desk, and I love to show them to people when they come over and tell them how I earned them."

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