Posted by Cassidhe Walker, UCO Endeavor Games on 04/01/2022
EYP’s mission is to build and develop leaders for the betterment of our community. We achieve this through a variety of educational and networking events, but also through volunteer opportunities throughout the year. As EYP Chairwoman and Coordinator of Adaptive Sports and Events at the University of Central Oklahoma, I am particularly excited about EYP’s June volunteer opportunity: the UCO Endeavor Games.
What are the UCO Endeavor Games? The Endeavor Games were held for the first time in 2000 on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma. The Games exists to create competitive, fun, safe and high-quality sport competitions for athletes with physical disabilities throughout the United States. The first Games was just a couple of days long and had less than 100 athletes in attendance. Now celebrating our 23rd annual UCO Endeavor Games, we’ve grown to four days and 250 athletes on average. The event is now regarded as one of the largest multi-sport, multi-disability competitions in the country.
Something fun that sets us apart is that each year we choose a different theme for the Games. This includes unique medals, t-shirts, and other printed pieces that fit the year’s theme. We want our athletes to have a memorable, fun experience, and we think this creates a great atmosphere for that. This year’s theme is outer space—it’s going to be out of this world!
The 2022 UCO Endeavor Games will take place June 9-12.
Who are our athletes? Different than the Special Olympics, the athletes at the UCO Endeavor Games have physical impairments, usually not cognitive/intellectual ones. Eligible impairments could include amputation, limb loss, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, blindness, etc. Some of our athletes may be new to their impairment, some may have been born with it, and others have acquired their impairment somewhere in between.
Our athletes are of all ages and all experience levels. In 2021, our youngest athlete was 5, our oldest was 82, and we have athletes representing every other decade too. We have athletes who participate for health, some for recreation, some with Paralympic dreams, and even some who are Paralympians already. Some have been participating in adaptive sport for years, while others may be brand new. The Games is also open to military service members and veterans who identify having a physical disability of some kind.
The athletes we serve don’t just live in Oklahoma. Last year, we hosted participants from 30 different states, and this year we’re eager to also welcome international participants. Through a partnership we’ve forged with the U.S. State Department’s Sports Diplomacy Division and nonprofit FHI 360, athletes and coaches from 11 countries around the world will be joining us for this year’s UCO Endeavor Games. We’re so excited to welcome these participants to our Games and to the Edmond community.
What do we offer? We offer ten different sport competitions in air rifle, archery, cycling, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair softball. Some of these competitions are sanctioned through their sport governing bodies so athletes have the opportunity to use their times, distances, and scores to advance within the sport if they so choose. Portions of the competitions remain unsanctioned for athletes who have different goals.
We also offer nine sport clinics in air rifle, archery, cycling, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair tennis. The clinics provide athletes with access to high level coaches that they might not have access to in their communities. Often times, these coaches are current or prior coaches and athletes for their respective national teams. Clinics are open to all levels of athletes to learn, get extra practice, fine tune skills, and more.
Beyond sport, we offer three special events through the weekend: a Welcome Party, Track and Field Lunch, and the Athlete Celebration. At our special events, we have food, activities, maybe a short program, but mostly, we have participants interacting together. Coordinating the sport piece is certainly the main part of my job, but one of the best things we get to do is provide spaces outside of the competition for athletes and their families to build community with one another.
What are the volunteer options? We have so much going on, I’m confident we have something for everyone! Volunteers can choose sport specific options that allow them to help out at a clinic or competition that most interests them. All of our sport clinics take place on Thursday, with sport competitions being scheduled through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We also have shifts during our special events on Thursday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening. Some options allow for more conversation and interaction with participants like athlete or volunteer check in and driving mini-vans for venue to venue transportation.
The only volunteer option that has an age requirement is to drive a van—the rest are available to volunteers of all ages. Any volunteer under the age of 14 must have a parent or guardian present with them at all times. The UCO Endeavor Games is a great volunteer opportunity for the whole family!
I am the only full-time employee whose job is entirely dedicate to the Games, and we have a small staff that we bring on board from other areas of the department when the event occurs. This means we rely heavily on volunteer support. In 2021, over 60% of our volunteers were from Edmond, and this year we have many local organizations and leadership groups, like EYP, volunteering together. We are so fortunate to be in a community like Edmond that has embraced and supported us from the beginning, and I am so thankful for organizations like EYP that prioritize serving our community.
Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or want additional information. Hope to see you in June!
Coordinator, Adaptive Sports and Events, UCO
More information, including an event schedule, volunteer shift schedule, and volunteer job descriptions: https://www.endeavorgames.org/edmond/
EYP Volunteer Shift Sign Ups:
General Volunteer Registration: