Fraternity volunteers at Special Olympics

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity at PSU will send volunteers this weekend to a Special Olympics competition in Bend, Ore., to help handicapped children participate in sports competitions.

The event is a statewide competition in conjunction with the winter sports section of Special Olympics Oregon, and will feature skiing and basketball programs. Phi Delta Theta will help out at the basketball competition all day Saturday and Sunday, providing volunteers to help keep score and act as timers.

Phi Delta Theta is bringing about 10 volunteers from the fraternity, and all PSU students are welcome to help out or come along, according to Paul Drechsler, chaplain and philanthropy chair of Phi Delta Theta.

The fraternity has never done a Special Olympics event before but does engage in lots of volunteering, philanthropy and fundraising. The decision to choose Special Olympics to volunteer at was “more of a personal thing,” Drechsler said. “It’s a good cause, and our peer group has lots of uncertainties about handicapped people, so it’s a good chance to interact with them.”

The event has been in the planning for about two months now. Fraternity members will stay at a local children’s hospital for the weekend along with the athletes, so volunteers will get a chance to be with competitors all weekend long. There will be about 90 athletes competing in the basketball program, with some in 5-on-5, full-court games and more physically-limited participants in 3-on-3, half-court games.

“There’s a very wide range in the level of play you see at these events,” Drechsler said. “There’s people that are just learning the game up to people with a high level of proficiency.”

Drechsler anticipates that fraternity members will have a great time, and said that for past volunteer events, “everyone’s face hurts from smiling all day long. It’s a good growing experience.”

Drechsler says that Phi Delta Theta is always trying to relay the message that the fraternity isn’t like the stereotypical image of a beer-drinking, goof-off group of guys. “We like to think that we have a lot higher moral values than that,” he said. The basic goals of the fraternity are volunteering and philanthropy, and the Special Olympics event ties in nicely with their mission.

Special Olympics is a program that provides “year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with mental retardation,” which gives them “continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other athletes and the community,” according to the Special Olympics Web site.

There are approximately 6,000 Special Olympics Oregon athletes who train for and compete in 15 Olympic-type sports.