Did you hear the news? April is #NationalVolunteerMonth! We have been featuring several stories about some of our AMAZING Special Olympics New Jersey volunteers.

This week’s final story is about volunteer, Karen Basedown! ​​​​​​Karen has been volunteering with Special Olympics New Jersey since 2014 when Barnabas Health was a sponsor of the National Games. Each year, Karen participates in 4-5 events. This year, she has been able to accomplish more due to not having to drive to locations and the ease of a Zoom connection. Karen volunteers with the Special Olympics New Jersey Healthy Communities Managers, the National and Summer Games, Diabetes and Health Screenings, Nutrition and Cooking Classes, and in the Athletes Village for outdoor games.

To Karen, volunteering is a way to spread joy. There is no greater reward than seeing the smile on the athlete’s faces when we do something together. Often it is tasting a new food or exercising to be healthy. 

Through volunteering, Karen has learned that she can never get enough time with the athletes and their families. There are so many members to meet and time is often short. Karen’s favorite part about volunteering with Special Olympics New Jersey is seeing the enthusiasm and genuine greetings when she meets with athletes to talk about food or sports. Karen has enjoyed traveling the state with SONJ from the Sports Complex in Lawrenceville to the Prudential Center in Newark where they have had some fun nutrition education sessions in sports venues. The combined model of health, nutrition and athletics speaks to the core of Karen’s being. She has also enjoyed working with SONJ’s interns who are gaining their first experience volunteering with individuals with disabilities. Karen has had fun with helping them learn about the nuances and delight of being with SONJ athletes. 

Throughout the pandemic, Karen has done live nutrition sessions and was able to see the athletes more often. They found themselves meeting almost weekly to make Sweet Potato Hummus, Pumpkin Trail Mix, as well as learning how to mindfully eat a banana. Once things get back to “normal,” Karen is most looking forward to getting outside and seeing the athletes back at their sports, increasing their exercise, and eating some of the recipes they shared during the pandemic lockdown. It is so important to have our “team” work together to boost our personal satisfaction and social opportunities. Karen can’t wait to prepare food, and sit around the table with everyone to taste the results!

Get Involved! The heart of our organization is our athletes, and we would not exist today without the individuals and organizations who help support them throughout the year. Click here to learn more.

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