BILLINGS - Special Olympics Montana is making its return for the first time in two years after being sidelined due to COVID-19.
While many participants are excited about the games, Special Olympics is also about more than athletes competing.
It’s also about giving back to the community, which is what happened at the Montana Rescue Mission in Billings during the holidays.
You’ve seen their incredible stories: Special Olympics Montana athletes doing amazing things on the playing field. But what’s just as impressive is what they’re doing off the field.
"I was here at Christmas, and I helped with setting the tables, doing the cards they have," said Krystin Thompson, a Special Olympic athlete.
Thompson competes in both soccer and bowling and also volunteers as part of the organization’s giving-back program.
It's an initiative that started with simple acts of kindness during the holidays.
"I feel like kindness multiplies. So if they do the smallest things and we started out like asking them to shovel their neighbor's walk if they have an elderly neighbor, hold the door at Walmart, just something that can make somebody’s day brighter," says Kimberley Farley, athlete leadership coordinator for Yellowstone Valley.
The program has since blossomed. These athletes are now out doing incredible things in the community each day, giving back to those who have given to them.
"And that they understand the importance of giving back. It makes you feel good, helps our community, and grows the culture," said Farley.
Lessons learned by doing, whether that’s kicking a soccer ball or through community service are exactly what Special Olympics is all about.
"Just because you have a disability does not mean you have to quit everything. It means that you can do pretty much anything you put your mind to," said Thompson.