Coweta Special Olympics volunteers honored
by Celia Shortt
Two Coweta County Special Olympics volunteers were recently named outstanding youth volunteers by the Special Olympics of Georgia.
Tara and Anna Iyengar were honored at the Georgia Special Olympics 2014 Summer games. Both have been involved with Coweta County’s Special Olympics since 2009, when their mom, Laxmi, attending an informational meeting held by Kelly Abercrombie, coordinator for Coweta County’s Special Olympics.
Iyengar is the special education teacher at Arbor Springs Elementary School, and at the meeting, she learned one of the sports the Special Olympics is involved with is swimming.
“My kids all swam, and I thought it would be a good idea,” she said.
Tara, Anna, and their older brother, Vishnu, all became involved and began working with the kids and teaching them how to swim and to grow in their skill.
Tara and Anna have also participated in a unified relay team, which includes two special needs athletes and two other athletes.
They and the swimmers began practicing the first week of March and continued until the end of May. Two different types of sessions are available for the swimmers. One is for beginners and focuses more on teaching them how to swim, and the other is for more advanced swimmers. All the work from March until May prepared each of them for their first race at the state meet in May at Emory University.
Tara thought being involved in the organization was simply “going to be fun,” but she ended up gaining perspective and learning about life.
“I’ve seen these kids struggle with things we do everyday,” she said. “I’m more likely to help people now.”
The most fulfilling part for her has been to see the kids progress.
“A lot of these kids didn’t know how to dog paddle, and now they can swim 50s and 100s,” she said.
Anna was in fifth grade when she started volunteering and thought being involved would be fun while she was watching the practices with her mom. Soon after, she started helping by handing out clipboards and equipment.
Her favorite part of being involved with the Coweta County Special Olympics was hanging out with the kids. She also loved the looks on their faces and all the cheers when they finished a race.
Both Tara and Anna knew they were nominated, but were surprised when they won. The Special Olympics of Georgia usually only gives out one of these awards.
“We’re not doing anything special,” said Tara. “It’s what everyone would do.”
“I’m really proud of them,” said Mrs. Iyengar. “They really enjoy doing it. It’s a feeling of being part of something.”
For Tara, this next year will be different, as she will be attending the University of Georgia in fall and won’t be able to regularly volunteer anymore with the Coweta County Special Olympics.
“I’ve known these kids longer than I’ve known a lot of my friends,” she said.
Tara does plan on being involved as much as she can when she is home from school.
“I think next year when she comes to visit, they (the athletes) will love it,” said Anna.