Sometimes it only takes one time to know that something is right for you. The Special Olympics was like that for Christina Conway and Deb Surface - one time volunteering with Special Olympics was all it took. After that, they were hooked.
As the La Porte County Special Olympics County Coordinator (Conway) and Secretary/Volunteer Chairman (Surface), the two have been always focused on volunteers. In fact, Conway and Surface are on a mission to make sure every potential athlete in La Porte County gets the opportunity to participate and compete. They are also hoping that you will join them on this amazing experience.
Both Conway and Surface came to Special Olympics through a family connection. For Surface, she began seeing the opportunities in Special Olympics when her son joined at eight years old.
Ironically when her son joined the Special Olympics team, so did Surface.
“[Special Olympics] is a team effort,” Surface said. “We couldn’t do this without the caregivers. It’s the epitome of team.”
Surface is not only the Secretary/Volunteer Chairman for the La Porte County Special Olympics, but she is also an occupational therapist for students in Gary Community Schools. Surface knows that helping people is her life-long passion, and being on the sidelines of Special Olympics wasn’t the end of the road for her.
Between 2006 and 2007, an opening came up on the management team and Surface has never looked back. For Surface, Special Olympics is a way to see the unimaginable become possible.
“Within eight weeks you can see athletes go from swimming with floatees to being able to compete.”
Surface notes coaching and helping Special Olympic athletes is not just for the few.
“We all have skills we don’t know we have,” Surface said.
Special Olympics will train coaches and volunteers to support all the athletes.
Family is what brought Conway to Special Olympics as well.
“Unfortunately, [my nephew] was in an accident, and it less left him incapacitated,” Conway said. “His brother, my other nephew, got involved [in Special Olympics] about 10 years ago. He called me up and he asked if I want to help us coach. I'm a single parent, and this was a good way to have my kids involved with me, and it teaches them so many other things.”
Today, Conway and her children have taken the Special Olympics mission to heart. Her daughter is even one of the team’s coaches, and like, Surface, Conway spends even her working life helping others.
Conway has always worked with kids, but today she said she’s found another place to serve–a bus driver for East Porter County Schools. She began driving for Washington Township a year-and-a-half ago, greeting students in grades K-12 every morning and every afternoon.
“It just seems to be my little niche in the world,” Conway said.
Today, Conway and Surface want to help others volunteer just like they did. They know the joy Special Olympics brings to them, to their families, and to the athletes. It is their hope to share that joy throughout La Porte County.
COVID-19 also affected how Special Olympics athletes register and increased the need for coaches, assistant coaches, and volunteers.
“2022 is our building year,” Conway said. “We are definitely doing it with a strong foundation because we have no intentions of having this fail.”
Conway and Surface are working to make sure that any athlete that wants to complete, can, as many athletes throughout La Porte County are still waiting for volunteer coaches.
“Some people are reserved being coaches because they can't necessarily do it every week,” Conway said. “Life gets busy, and we get that, but any any type of little help helps out. You always have other people wanting to help, but they can't necessarily do the full time.”
Interested volunteers should visit the LaPorte County Special Olymplics Facebook Page. There you will find information on how to join or you can send a message to the group directly.