II MEF Marines, sailors volunteer for Special Olympics

5/5/2009 By 1st Lt. Richard K. Ulsh , II MEF

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Witnessing athletic competition engaged in solely for the sake of competing is something special.

For some athletes, overcoming personal challenges which make competition challenging, may be more important than the sport itself. Regardless of loss or victory, these inspirational gladiators celebrate their feats epitomizing sportsmanship, character and perseverance.

The Special Olympics will take place in Onslow County at Northside High School in Jacksonville, N.C., Thursday and Friday. Alongside the Olympians and their supporters will be volunteers, who are helping to make sure the entire event is a success for the sake of the athletes.

Dot Hochstrasser has been working with Special Olympics for more than 12 years, has served as the Onslow County Special Olympics Coordinator for more than seven, and has come to appreciate the efforts of local volunteers.

“Everyone involved in the local program are volunteers, from the coaches to the physicians,” said Hochstrasser. “The local Special Olympics program could not run without them.”

Many of the volunteers are Marines and sailors assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force. For the athletes, the idea of Marines and sailors joining them is one that brings happiness and excitement, said Hochstrasser.

Often it is as much a pleasure for the volunteers as it is for the young Olympians, she said.

“It is definitely a give and take. The volunteers are able to see the different levels of our athletes and a lot of times the volunteers come back to help, having become friends with those children and other adults that they meet,” explained Hochstrasser. “In return, the volunteers bring smiles to the athletes and encouragement. They really look forward to having a Marine or sailor joining them as a volunteer.”

For Hochstrasser, there is one volunteer in particular who she believes is integral to this season’s Special Olympics: Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa C. Ceron, an administrative clerk assigned to Health Service Support Section, II Marine Headquarters Group.

“Lisa has done an awesome job and that takes a big load off of my shoulders,” said Hochstrasser. “She is definitely someone who is very organized and you can see it right away. She is a Godsend.”

A mother and sailor of nearly 12 years, Ceron has volunteered for several different causes throughout her career such as Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Girl Scouts of America, Toys for Tots and countless others that she felt compelled to support.

“When I am doing things to help other people it makes me feel like I’m doing something important in this world, like I am making a difference,” explained Ceron, a Lorain, Ohio, native. “The feeling you get from helping people out is overwhelming.”

Serving as the volunteer manager for the Olympiad, Ceron will now add the Special Olympics to her list of worthy causes. Ceron is working closely with Hochstrasser to place more than 200 volunteers in appropriate positions to ensure this Special Olympics is a memorable one for all of the participants.

Other Marines and sailors from the surrounding areas are also volunteering their time for these Olympians.

“The response from the units aboard the base has been remarkable. I even have Marines from Cherry Point calling me to volunteer,” said Hochstrasser.

Ceron said she believes, as a service member, it is important to support the community that supports her. She also sees volunteerism as a parental responsibility.

“What I do in my life may determine some of the decisions my daughter will make in her life,” said Ceron. “I want to be an example for her so she can grow to be a productive member of society.”

Ceron encourages others to make the call and volunteer. “Do it! It is the most rewarding thing you will do in your life,” she said.

Editor’s note: To volunteer with the Onslow County Special Olympics, call Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Ceron at 451-8864 or Hochstrasser at 545-0372.