Volunteering for the Special Olympics holds a special place in the heart of Eynde Frazier, a rising junior for the Western Carolina women’s soccer team. The love for volunteering for this event began at an early age and it has stayed with her.
Eynde’s father, Richard, began volunteering for Special Olympics while in college at East Carolina University spurred on by his own brother’s spinal bifida condition and his need to give back to the community. He became heavily involved in the Special Olympics powerlifting events, and it quickly became a family event as Eynde’s mother, Ronnia Cockrell, (her parents have since divorced though her mother is still involved) would assist in filling out the cards for the athletes.
As the family expanded to include her brother, Eli, and Eynde herself it meant that love of assisting others was passed on to the children. After Eli became involved and later became an official for events there was no question Eynde would follow.
“I began volunteering for the Special Olympics in my diapers,” Eynde admits. “I can’t remember a time I haven’t been involved.”
However, there did come a time when Eynde was sidelined for a bit. When Frazier turned 10 the rules were amended and volunteers had to be 14. Eynde admits she continued to help behind the scenes but was front and center when she turned 14 to begin “officially” volunteering again.
“When I was finally able to officially be back it was just amazing to be back on stage and watch the athletes compete,” Eynde said. “Their facial expressions and reactions when they get a good lift is just so uplifting. It’s amazing to see them.”
As Eynde grew older, so did her responsibilities. She has now been officially certified to judge the power lifting in the Special Olympics. She sheepishly reveals it wasn’t too hard to be certified since her father is the head of the event. She also reveals how hard it is sometimes to judge an event.
“I have seen these athletes for years and know how hard they have worked to get there, it is so hard to hit the red button when they do a lift wrong,” Eynde said.
The work ethic and hardships she has seen the athletes in the Special Olympics go through has really transferred over to Eynde and her experiences as a collegiate student-athlete. Stepping on the soccer pitch and playing at the highest level seems more like a privilege for her as she knows and sees what she can do without the weight of limitations.
“We actually have one athlete who is blind and he can come out and dead lift more than me, it’s amazing,” she said. “In my experiences, I have seen guys lift over 600 pounds bench pressing or dead lifting. It’s amazing you can do anything you put your mind to. And it’s awesome to see them be successful in the sport they love, just like me with soccer.”
Eynde has worked at the local and national level in Special Olympics and her involvement has been in many different events besides power lifting.
“At the local level, I help with our cities Special Olympics track and field event at the high school for elementary, middle school and high school ages every year,” Eynde said. “My family still kind of runs it, though it is through our area parks and recreation. My mom always announces and I was always in charge of the Olympic town which is the fun games on the side.”
At the state and world level, Frazier and her family work exclusively with the power lifting events because that is where her father started out volunteering and the family fell in love with it.
She also benefits from a wealth of support. Eynde is friends with many of the athletes from the Special Olympics as they have watched her grow up and excel in her chosen sport as well.
“It is hard sometimes when your favorite athlete you have watched compete for years doesn’t come back for health reasons,” Eynde laments. “But seeing the ones excel in it who are and happy to see me they put a smile on my face for sure.”
Eynde tells a story about one athlete named Charles Quick who definitely puts a smile on her face and admits he is hilarious.
“No matter what time of day it is Charles puts on a show,” Eynde said. “He does the MC Hammer dance ‘Hammer Time,’ every time he gets a lift.”
“So many times I will get a message on Facebook from some of them asking me about how our games went,” Eynde said. “It is so rewarding to remain in contact with some of them and provide and receive support.”
Eynde truly is part of an extended family. When she went to her first Special Olympics’ national event in 2014, in New Jersey, Frazier was devastated when she missed her flight and was unable to make the opening games.
“As soon as I got there, the hotel was decorated with Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) and there were actually signs on the door that read Welcome SONC sweetheart and my name,” Eynde said. “It was really cool to see the athletes there welcoming me because I missed the opening and they said we are going to make your own opening games for you. It was sweet to see them care about me so much.”
For Eynde, the balance between student-athlete and volunteer doesn’t end. She is hoping to use her major in Parks and Recreation to implement programs to incorporate more inclusive sports in her future job when she graduates in two years.
As for now, Eynde is working hard on her goals on all fronts. She has two more years on the Western Carolina women’s soccer team with aspirations of winning a Southern Conference title. In her life as a volunteer for Special Olympics, 2018 and 2019 hold some exciting times ahead as she will travel to Seattle, Washington for the national games in 2018 and then on to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, for the Special Olympics World Games in summer 2019.
“To have the chance to go to Abu Dhabi, when the only time I have been out of the country is Mexico, is going to be a culture shock in itself let alone be there with a bunch of athletes from around the world,” Eynde admits. “It will be a great experience for me to witness different cultures and see how they incorporate athletics with inclusion.”
Eynde is the epitome of a true college student-athlete as she is using her experiences to not only help her reach the heights of her sport but to make sure others around her have the same chance.