Volunteers Help Make Special Olympics Dreams Come True

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Opening ceremonies for Special Olympics Hawaii's summer games are set for Friday night. Thousands of volunteers have contributed during the 40-year history of the event.

"Where's the play? Second base. We want to get the lead runner," Paul Epstein, volunteer softball coach, instructed his players.

When he's not fighting crime, Honolulu police captain Paul Epstein is encouraging his players to reach for the stars.

"Come on, Maka. Come on, Maka," he cheered.

He's one of many volunteers helping Special Olympics athletes train for the state summer games.

"Oh, I like the coaches," Robert Yuge, Special Olympics athlete, said. "They nice."

"Way to go, Charlene," Antonio Williams, volunteer softball coach, said.

Antonio Williams found this diamond, after a stint in the rough. He was inspired after returning home safely from his deployment to Afghanistan.

"While in Afghanistan, I had a lot of thought and, you know, things going through my mind," he said. "So when I came back, I assumed the duties as a first sergeant and I wanted to do something where I could give back to the community."

A feeling that's appreciated by a volunteer-driven organization that offers 10 different sports for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.

"Just the fact that we can get 6,000 volunteers a year from corporate groups, civic groups, the military, you know, it's fantastic," Dan Epstein, Special Olympics Hawaii Vice President, said. "It's really a testament to the program and to our athletes."

Seventeen-year-old Jacqueline Ho has volunteered at Special Olympics events since she was in elementary school. Earlier this month, she received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award in Washington DC for her efforts.

She and Williams believe it's not just the athletes who are having a ball.

"It definitely is one of those things where I get a lot of joy out of it," Williams said. "Every day, the athletes surprise you."

KHNL News 8's Minna Sugimoto is a certified Special Olympics softball coach.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, click the link to the Special Olympics Hawaii website.