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Celebrate the Olympics with Service

One of the best things about the Olympics is the fact that it is a 17-day event of nations coming together to celebrate a tradition that has been in place for a long time.  To me, the Olympics are about putting differences aside for a few weeks and instead bringing peace, unity, respect, and excellence to all in the spirit of friendly athletic competitions. 

Even if you’re not at the games in London, you can still spread the spirit of the Olympics by participating in a community service project. There are several ways you can get involved that mirror that of the Olympics. The following are just five of the many ways you can give back. 

As everyone focuses on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, why not bring all the excitement back home and make a difference by volunteering to help with the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is often overlooked and could really use volunteers and supporters. There are many ways that high school students can volunteer with Special Olympics.  The best way to find opportunities is to connect with a nearby Special Olympics program.  Opportunities can include volunteering for events, becoming a coach, being a Fan in the Stands, or joining one of their many projects. Project UNIFY is an education-based project that uses sports and education programs to encourage youth to develop school communities where all youth are agents of change that foster respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

An international service project idea is to volunteer abroad with an organization such as Cross-Cultural Solutions. Teens under 18 years old can volunteer abroad with family and can choose to volunteer in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, or Latin America.  There is also a Teen Volunteer Abroad summer program for teens ages 14-17 years old.  Families are also encouraged to volunteer abroad to help strengthen their bond and make a difference while getting immersed into another culture.

Although there are only 204 countries represented at this year’s Olympics, there are still many others in the world that are not as financially healthy as first world countries.  A service project idea is to create a project to help those in third world countries.  An idea is to hold a fundraiser such as a charity dinner, sports tournament, concert, or even something simple as holding a bake sale or lemonade stand to raise money.  People love to give back for a good cause, and these countries certainly need our help.  You can also raise money for the United Nations Children’s Fund to help protect children throughout the world. 

If you like sports, hosting or volunteering at a sports clinic for those in need is a great idea to keep with the spirit of the Olympics locally. One such idea is Volunteen Nation’s 'Aces for All' tennis clinic for children on the Autism spectrum:  You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You can even keep it friendly by giving every kid a gold medal at the end of the clinic.  The kids will love being in the Olympic spirit and receiving a gold medal for their participation and you know you will have helped make a difference for the kids as well as their families.  All family members can have a fun time volunteering at a sports clinic while strengthening their bond and helping other families. 

Live in St. Louis, Missouri? Another way to get involved internationally, yet locally is by volunteering at a local international organization festival, such as the Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis. If you and your family are from a different country or have a special talent such as Irish dance or other international arts talent, an international festival association would probably love to have you share your talents with the public at one of their festivals throughout the year. You’ll help promote unity and respect within the world and help educate the public about different countries and cultures.
 

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