It was a Saturday. A day like any other except for a select group of individuals gathered at Sweet Home High School, waiting for their turn to compete. The Special Olympics ran a track and field meet that day, allowing people with a myriad of disabilities to participate in athletic events.
For Ryan and Erin Belile of Williamsville, this is nothing out of the ordinary.
Ryan, 12, a student at Mill Middle School, and Erin, 15, who attends Williamsville South High School, have been volunteering at Special Olympics events for as long as they can remember. Their parents got them involved in the organization at an early age and the two have enjoyed every minute of it.
"You make someone's day better," said Erin. "You make them feel like they can do anything."
The siblings help out with basketball, track and softball events through the Special Olympics, devoting approximately six hours to each event. This includes setting up the event, escorting athletes, working at the snack stand and handing out ribbons.
The athletes participating in these events all have one thing in common -- the thrill they feel when they receive a ribbon.
"Everyone wins a ribbon," said Ryan. "Everyone wins."
To the Belile siblings, these events are what the name implies: special. The bonds they form with the athletes are unforgettable, and the impact their involvement has on these individuals is both noted and cherished.
"Over the years, you start to know [the athletes] very well," said Ryan.
When asked how they felt about the Special Olympics as a whole, both gave emphatic replies:
"It's a fun community service," said Ryan.
"[The Special Olympics] is a great organization and gives people [with disabilities] the chance to play sports."
Haley Keeley is a senior at Starpoint High School.