It is 9:30 on a Saturday morning in January and it’s snowing: the perfect time to sleep in.
But that morning found two Scarborough High School seniors instead at Gorham YourSpace volunteering for the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics host sports such as basketball and swimming year-round, but for now it is flag football season. They meet in Gorham every Saturday, 9:30-11 a.m., for six weeks.
Logan Mars and Harry Motter, two of a handful of Scarborough seniors who volunteer there, play as part of the teams of people with mental disabilities. They help the participants, whether handing off the ball or offering congratulations.
“They take it very serious,” said Mars, who also plays football for Scarborough High School with Motter. “There’s been arguments. They get into it.”
What helps is the continuity of the program. For Mars and Motter, this is their third year of involvement, and they are familiar with their teammates. They have gotten to know the participants individually, and the Special Olympians have gotten to know them. A few of them even attend school with each other.
Their time together has led to a mutual admiration.
“It’s fun. It’s something to look forward to,” Motter said. “And they look forward to it.”
Amid the competition is camaraderie as well. Those who “tackled” another by taking a flag make sure to seek out the flag’s owner and clip it back to their shirt. They support each other and cheer at their own touchdowns, and vow a comeback at the other team’s. The game is a mix of competition and fun, complete with a team atmosphere.
Mars and Motter became involved two years ago as sophomores, when they and a group of others, mostly football players, decided to start helping out. It is personal, too; Mars’ cousin has special needs, and Motter has family members who do as well.
“It helps me teach them,” Motter said. “And it’s fun to get to know them through a sport.”
But also, Mars said, “They teach us a lot too, like how to be patient.”
“I’ve always looked at it as something to help with,” he said, referring to his cousin. “And it’s great to give them an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Ali Pelczar is a junior at Scarborough High School. She can be reached at [email protected]