PHOTO BY JOLENE PALMER

59716 VOLUNTEER

It’s all about the smiles
Winter Special Olympics Coordinator Sean Fitzgerald looks forward to the upcoming Big Sky Games

When asked why he volunteers, Big Sky Area Winter Games Coordinator Sean Fitzgerald is quick to note it’s never been about gaining recognition. 

“I don’t think any volunteer ever does it for the glamour of it, or otherwise,” said Fitzgerald. “Me personally, it’s just great to see all the smiles, the competitors and especially the awards ceremony at the end.”

This is Fitzgerald’s sixth year coordinating for the Montana Winter Special Olympics and his eighth year with the program. 

His journey into volunteering began when he started working at RightNow Technologies in Bozeman. The company provided 40 hours of paid time off to go out and give back to the community. 

“It was such an awesome opportunity—a really cool way to get involved,” Fitzgerald said, admitting he didn’t take advantage of the program until he was asked during his first performance review about where he was volunteering.

 “I was like, ‘Uhhh…’” Fitzpatrick said, laughing at the memory.

Volunteer fate intervened and about a week later Eagle Mount reached out looking for ski volunteers at Bridger, “And I knew right away that’s what I was supposed to be doing.” 

He was later invited by a coworker to get involved with the Special Olympics, and he did just that, eventually stepping up as coordinator for the Big Sky Area Winter Games.

The games are back this year and will take place at the Madison Village base area on Monday, Feb. 26.

In a normal year, 65 to 70 athletes from the Big Sky area compete. But this year, Fitzgerald said, Special Olympics made the difficult decision to cancel the state games in Whitefish. So now, even more Montana athletes are coming to Big Sky. Thirty or so Butte-area competitors will attend the Big Sky games, making this the biggest Special Olympics event here to date with more than 100 competitors.

Fitzgerald is thankful this year also has seen a boost in volunteer turnout at about 125 people. Volunteers are still needed for Feb. 26 – anyone interested is encouraged to sign up at www.somt.org/volunteer.

The community is also invited to come watch and cheer on the racers in the downhill, cross-country and snowshoe races. Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton will open the games at 9 a.m., and the awards and closing ceremony takes place at 3 p.m.

“The opening and awards ceremonies are just fantastic,” Fitzgerald said. “The hugs, the smiles, all of those things just really kind of bring it home as to why we’re on this planet. It’s those opportunities, those moments in life are so few and far between, with social media and everyone complaining about everything, this is really a true break… it just makes you feel good.”

 

—JP

 

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