Hawthorne spends free time working the USA National Games


The Special Olympics is allowing Joyce Hawthorne to make the most out of a tough situation.

Hawthorne, assistant to the director of the UNL-based National Bridge Research Organization, had her position reduced to half time in a round of university budget reductions. While she continues to search for full-time work, Hawthorne thought her free time could make for a nice opportunity volunteering with the Special Olympics 2010 USA National Games.

"I couldn't think of a better way to spend the day," said Hawthorne on July 19 between bowling sessions at Sun Valley Lanes. "This is something I felt like I just had to do, especially since the Special Olympics is such a worthwhile organization. It's neat to be part of this experience while it is in Lincoln."

Hawthorne is volunteering for one and a half days - all day July 19 at the bowling event, then half a day at July 23 at the Special Olympics Town at Pershing Center. She will be a runner in the Town and was an assistant scorekeeper for the bowling competition. She also hopes to be counted as a fan in the stands, with plans to attend bocce in Cook Pavilion.

During the morning bowling session, Hawthorne kept track of scoring for Team Michigan. The team included Kolan McConighey, an athlete who made national news after he challenged President Obama to a bowling contest. The challenge came after Obama joked on "The Tonight Show" that he bowled like a Special Olympian.

"He told me he was still practicing up to face President Obama," Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne has two nieces with intellectual disabilities. She said her experiences are useful for working with the Special Olympics athletes.

"I've spent some time with my nieces and you learn that you just treat them like they are any of your other friends," said Hawthorne. "That's just what they do here for the Special Olympics. They get these athletes out here and allow them to show that they can do things as well as anyone else."

Even though her volunteer time was only one-third complete, Hawthorne said it had been rewarding.

"Every one of these athletes is so excited and happy to just be here competing," said Hawthorne. "Volunteering for the Special Olympics has been very uplifting. This has been a great way to spend a day."

- By Troy Fedderson, University Communications