News Release

Church of Jesus Christ Provides Largest Volunteer Group at Special Olympic World Games 2023

Over 700 young adults volunteer through sponsored service conference at Special Olympics in Berlin

Over 700 young adult members and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in Berlin last week for a Europe-wide service conference, centred on volunteering at the 2023 Special Olympics. As volunteers, they were also invited to join the large opening ceremony at the Berlin Olympiastadion, with around 50.000 spectators.

The service conference began on Friday, 16 June 2023, and ended Sunday, 25 June. Conference participants came from all over the world, the majority from Europe, representing a total of 48 countries.

Two young adults, Dan Winkler from Germany and Tabita Aversa from Brazil, where part of the Church conference’s organizing team. “All elements of this conference were focused on helping others,” says Tabita. “Our main schedule was to help at the Special Olympics throughout the day, and at night there were some additional activities planned by us,” she continues. “I hope that everyone felt the love, which God has for all of His children. This love motivated me to help out with this conference and I hope that everyone felt the same, through their time together and doing something good for others.” Tabita concludes.

“This conference was a little bit different to what we normally do, because it was not just about enjoying ourselves, mingle, or grow spiritually, but also what we could donate timewise, strength-wise and talentwise to the service of others.”  says Dan. “With the Special Olympics, it’s a service for people of our society, who are in special need of additional support. They have disadvantages in certain areas, which demands a higher degree of commitment that we would normally invest in such a convention,” he continues. “My hope is that all participants felt that special spirit of service and share it with others in the world. This can then become something much bigger than only a good memory of a conference, but even a movement that unites us, across all borders, with everyone around us.” Dan concludes.

The Church in Europe provided accommodation, food and social activities for all conference participants, which included members and friends of the church from age 18 to 35. The Special Olympics organization provided public transportation, shuttle services, volunteer equipment, training, and assignments to over 21 volunteer roles. Volunteers could either participate over a five-day period or the entire time.

“Collaborating with large groups like The Church of Jesus Christ is a nice experience, for the groups and for us”, says Oliver Büttel, Special Olympics volunteer manager. “Groups always stick together and are helpful because they are reliable and trustworthy. They carry a big part in the volunteering experience.”, Büttel continues. “We hope that through the help of the Church, awareness for inclusion in society will increase, not only because of the importance of the topic itself, but also the size and need of this relevant multi-sport event.”

To sign up for the Church service conference, all participants first registered as volunteers at the Special Olympics. Volunteer shifts occurred throughout the day, at the eight official Olympic venues across Berlin. In the evenings, the Church organized social events, including dances, a beach party, open-air cinema, Karaoke, workshops as well as large worship services on Sunday.

“This is just so wholesome overall, which puts me in such a good mood”, says Samual Tessa, a young adult volunteer from France. “Overall, there is so much positivity all around us. We are just looking out for each other and that’s what it’s all about”, Tessa continues.

The collaboration with the Special Olympics organization came together through a simple outreach by a senior missionary couple, serving in Berlin. In the Church of Jesus Christ, members in various age groups can volunteer full-time in various capacities, locally or abroad.

“As my profession, I worked as gym teacher for children with special needs.” says Robert Swift, Senior Missionary from Las Vegas. “I wanted to do something similar while on my mission in Berlin and discovered online, that the Special Olympics reach out for volunteers. We told them that we have many young adults who would love to serve the community and volunteer at the Games,” Swift continues.

Quickly, the word spread among Young Adults in Europe and world-wide, with their desire to meet together from various countries and cultures and help others through this meaningful initiative. The Europe Area Presidency decided to sponsor this unique service conference around the Special Olympics, to provide young adults the opportunity to show their love for God by helping others and foster a sense for unity and belonging.

“This is the first time that I see such a large group of young adults doing something so good, so enjoyable and so strong, not just as a church but open to the world, together with and for the community.” says Elder De Feo, president of the Church’s Europe Central Area. “This is something we should do more and more in the future.” he continues. “As we serve in the community, we help, just like Jesus Christ did, and therefore, we feel that we can become more like Him, and our nature is changed.”

When asked about his hopes for other regions in Europe regarding helping others, Elder De Feo says: “I think we should spread the voice and the feeling of helping others, to ignite more of these positive feelings in others. It will become a spiritual momentum, with many more having the desire to help others. When we come together, and continue to do good, we can do great things.”, Elder De Feo concludes.

The Special Olympics World Games are the world's largest inclusive sporting event, with some 7,000 athletes with disabilities competing in 26 disciplines. Over 12,000 volunteers from around the world assisted in the games this year.

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