To say that there is an inspiring passion in Donna Desjardin’s voice when she speaks of her experiences and joys of volunteering at Special Olympics St. Paul for the past 18 years is a total understatement.
The recipient of Special Olympics Alberta’s 2010 Volunteer Leadership of the Year Award, together with the enthusiastic members and coaches of Special Olympics St. Paul’s softball team, have been invited to Calgary on Oct. 16 to receive honours of being chosen as the team of the year for 2010.
The group will be awarded Special Olympics Alberta’s 2010 Team of the Year award, while Robert Fraser will be honoured with the 2010 Male Athlete of the Year award.
Desjardins, co-owner of local accounting firm Desjardins & Company, started volunteering at the organization almost two decades ago. She started volunteering after Conrad Jean, the chair of Special Olympics St. Paul, invited Daniel, Desjardins’ then 14-year-old son who has Down syndrome, to be part of the baseball team.
“It was special to know that someone in the community wanted Daniel to be part of an activity going on (in the community),” says Desjardins, adding, “When Daniel joined baseball, I joined the Special Olympics.” Due to her background in accounting, Desjardins ended up doing a lot of the paperwork for the organization.
Desjardins continues by saying that life’s greatest gifts are often accomplished by giving, and she explains, “The enthusiasm and fun we have is a gift that keeps on giving, as far as working with these athletes and seeing them accomplish special things.
“Everyone (in the team) values every little opportunity, and the small steps in life are appreciated and celebrated,” says Desjardins, when asked what is the best thing about the Special Olympics St. Paul’s ball tournaments. The organization also holds other events through the year, such as the annual bowling tournament.
“My accomplishment is knowing that everybody can have an opportunity to go out and play ball, to bowl, and to participate in the sport that might not be otherwise available to them,” she said.
She welcomed anybody and everybody to join Special Olympics, noting there’s always a place for new people to volunteer, whether its as a coach or as a person helping with the bookwork.
For more information on how to volunteer for Special Olympics St. Paul or its events, please contact Conrad Jean at 780-645-7430 or Donna Desjardins at 780-645-3441, ext 229.