It is evident that people with an intellectual disability face a difficult, uphill battle to achieve acceptance and other benefits of society that most people take for granted. The Special Olympics is such an important tool for these people, which I have recently had the privilege to learn first hand.

Each year, the Towson swim and dive team helps coach and work personally with a Special Olympics program. We set aside a Saturday morning after practice each month to work with local Special Olympians in the pool. This consists of providing them with practice and helping them complete it to the best of their ability.

Through doing this, I have met so many lovely, genuine people.

Our team coming together to support such an important foundation is truly the best feeling. It is incredibly moving to not only meet the athletes, but actually get to know them. We spend so much time talking and working with these Special Olympic athletes on how to get better, and it makes the meet hosted for them at the end of their season even more heartwarming for us to witness.

This past weekend, our team hosted and competed against Drexel University's swim and dive team. We had a break during the meet to bring in all of our Special Olympians to each race in one event of their choice. From the moment all of them walked onto the pool deck, the joy they brought was naturally contagious. There is just something so sincere about each of these Special Olympians' smiles that when all of them were together sharing the spotlight, the place was radiating positivity. It made me realize that everyone was there to simply celebrate the ability of these people, instead of focus on disability.

The opportunity to help Special Olympians become better at the sport I love made me realize so much. After high school, most Special Olympic athletes do not get the opportunity to compete anymore on teams or individually as I do, which is why unified sports events are so crucial. Teaching these Special Olympic athletes how to compete and seeing how excited they could be reminded me to enjoy the competition I am so lucky to be surrounded with.

The image of our home pool exploding with joy and energy for these Special Olympians who were so proud to be competing in a race is forever engrained in my mind.