Contributed by Tanya Sturtz

Jack Hanson

Student Life Editor

Four students and three faculty members volunteered at the Winter Special Olympics in Waterville Valley New Hampshire from March 3 to March 5.

Students Ryan Manz, Resa Barbeiri, Ian Bohrmann and Gino Catruch volunteered alongside faculty Bert Poirier, Jennifer Drake-Deese, and Scott Strong. The students are a part of the ski and snowboard club with Drake-Deese as their advisor. Drake-Deese said she first heard about the olympics last year from Poirier and Strong, who had recently started volunteering.

Poirier said back when he was in college, he had a friend whose brother passed away and was a special olympian. Then four years ago, they got together and he offered to let Poirier volunteer at the games. Poirier started going with Strong last year when they came up with idea to have students get involved. He said that the current volunteers are getting older and it would be a great community service for the students and exposure for the college.

“To have college-age students to interact with the special olympics was so neat… they were so helpful,” Poirier said. “They made an impact not only on the games and how the games were carried out, but on the participants, which was the best part about it.”

The games started on Sunday with time trials followed by competitions Monday and Tuesday. Drake-Deese said there were four categories of athletes, with category four being the most experienced athletes who qualify for nationals. The volunteers were responsible for making sure the athletes got up and down the course, and helped set up the course.

Drake-Deese said her students did not hesitate to help and it made her feel a sense of pride in herself and in them.

“It just makes you feel so proud when you have all of these other professionals who work with volunteers all the time all over the country, and every chance they had made the point to say either to myself or Scott Strong or Bert Poirier about what a great job our students were doing and can we bring them again next year,” Drake-Deese said. “So it just says if you’re not working hard, people don’t want you back but we were hearing from the first day at the end of the first day they were like ‘please tell us you guys will be back next year. Please tell us your students are coming back!’ It was just really amazing.”

For Catruch, what he was doing was nothing special. “I always like to volunteer for things in general,” he said. “It was really involved where we were working a lot with the athletes. But most of the time it was just setting up the events like all the different ski courses, depending on what the event was, and yeah, just being there to help out wherever we were needed.” Barbeiri and Manz did not respond to comment.

Poirier said the athletes and other volunteers are expecting them to return and he wants it to become a Keene State tradition. “Every year I come back and it’s a moving experience. These athletes are just wonderful individuals and it’s not just the athletes… now we’ve developed relationships with their families as well, so we kind of look forward to seeing one another each year,” he said.

Poirier and Drake-Deese both said that they want more students to come volunteer and they do not have to be in the ski and snowboard club. There’s opportunities to volunteer with the opening ceremony, registration, etc.

If you would like more information about the ski and snowboard club or about the Winter Special Olympics, you can contact Bert Poirier at or Jennifer Drake-Deese at

Jack Hanson can be contacted at

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