Nicole Simon has volunteered in Reena’s Special Olympics Bowling program since October, 2013 where she assists the athletes by providing physical and moral support, cheering them on as they bowl. Nicole received the Ontario Volunteer Service Award this year in recognition of her contribution to Reena.
Here is what Nicole has to say about her volunteer experience:
“My late brother had physical and mental challenges, and after he passed away, I wanted to honour his memory by becoming involved in the special needs community. It’s important to show the vulnerable members of our community that we value them. I heard great things about Reena from a friend of mine who volunteered in the summer programs a couple years prior and strongly recommended it to me. Reena being a Jewish agency was a factor in my decision too. I like to give back to the Jewish community, since I feel that I receive so much from it. I really enjoy my work at Reena, getting to know the individuals supported by Reena and building meaningful relationships with them. Reena has impacted my personality in a sense that I am now a more patient and compassionate individual. It has also made me aware to create inclusive environments not only during my time in Reena, but in my everyday life as well. My first week as a recreational buddy, I had a cast on my leg. I was so touched by the outpouring support from the athletes – they continued to ask me about my recovery not just that week, but for several weeks after my cast was removed. This experience made me feel very welcomed, and also showed that the Reena participants treat their volunteers very warmly. Initially, I thought I would be giving as a volunteer, but ultimately, the relationship is mutual, as both the volunteers and the individuals with developmental disabilities give and receive at Reena. Reena is a great place to volunteer! Both the staff and individuals are so appreciative. I can’t count the number of times that someone shows their gratefulness. The programs are lots of fun, and modified to ensure participation from every individual! I would absolutely encourage others to volunteer with Reena.”