Friendship finds a way for Katie Connors and Liv Holscher in the Special Olympics Club

Caroline Scharf

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“It’s extremely rewarding. The kids are so cute and every time you see them, their faces light up; they’re so excited to see you and they care,” sophomore Katie Connors said.

Before stepping onto Redwood’s campus for the first time in 2018, Connors and fellow sophomore Liv Holscher knew they wanted to be involved with the Special Olympics club, excited for friendships and experiences that would come with it. Redwood’s club involves planning and hosting events for the students of the Special Education class, and after both of the girls learned about the club’s purpose from family and friends, they both decided that they were going to sign up for the Special Olympics club on the first club day. 

“My mom is family friends with the [former club] president. She told me about it a couple of years ago, and I’ve always wanted to do something like this. When I came to Redwood, it was just perfect,” Holscher said.

This year, both girls have taken on the position of co-presidents. Connors and Holscher have many responsibilities for the club such as organizing sports practices, reading events, merchandising and Color Runs (a five-kilometer paint race). Additionally, they are in charge of communicating with other schools.

“Last year my friends and I put on a Color Run, and we organized with other schools to have them come and join us. We organize all the funding with the school. Then we put on a Prom, which is so cute,” Connors said.

Photo courtesy of Liv Holscher
Liv Holscher and Katie Connors come together for the Special Olympics Walk-A-Thon

But through all the planning and work, the aspect of the club that shines through the most is the connections they make with the students of the Special Olympics Club and each other. Not only have both presidents become close with their members, but they have also met each other through the club and have since formed a strong friendship. 

“[The club members] become my really close friends. In the beginning, you get to know them and by the middle of the year, they’re your best friends,” Connors said.

Katie Peter, the teacher of the Special Education classroom and head of the Special Olympics club, noted that the friendships created through the Special Olympics club are truly authentic. She believes that the team-building that comes from the activities they sponsor forms life-long bonds with all the club members, and that the values of empathy and acceptance are at the core of the club.

  “It’s the feeling. It’s an emotion more so than an activity,” Peter said.

According to Holscher and Connors, their time in the club and their overall experience has made them feel special and loved throughout campus. Walking through the halls and pathways of Redwood, they might see a member who remembers their name, have a secret handshake with them or who runs up and gives them a hug. This unity is the heart of the Special Olympics club and continues to keep the presidents excited for each club practice and event.

“[One of the Special Education students] was on the other side of the tennis court. Right as I walked in, her face lights up. She sprints towards me with her hands out and gives me the biggest hug and screams, ‘Katie!’ It was the cutest thing ever because that was the first time [that interaction had taken place],” Connors said.

According to Holscher and Connors, everybody in the club learns about each other’s lives, engaging in conversations that bring people together. As the year progresses and people continue to join and create new friendships with the members, Connors and Holscher continue to foster an environment within the club that emphasizes open-mindedness and community. 

“You build such strong relationships with [the members of the club],” Connors said. “One of the best parts about [the Special Olympics Club] is just being able to spend so much time with those kids because they’re so amazing.”