I’ve always felt extremely blessed to work for a global company that makes an impact on the world. We have so many opportunities to volunteer at different events. We all volunteer for different reasons, but the outcome is always the same: the people we are there to help end up touching our lives way more than we could ever help them. 

I can only describe my volunteer experience this past weekend at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles as “pure joy." There is such a sense of pride as you sit in a sea of red Coca-Cola shirts cheering on the athletes. The first race was the women’s 3000. I was so moved by Aoife Beston from Dublin. She was near the end of pack, but had such a look of determination on her face. She was so focused that she kept running after she crossed the finish line and they had to go get her! 

Aoife was one of the athletes profiled during opening ceremonies Saturday night. The announcer mentioned that she hadn’t qualified for the last Special Olympics World Games due to a technicality. It makes you wonder if any of us would have the same dedication to not give up on our dream.

As we continued to cheer for the athletes during track and field, a shift came over me. We were there to motivate the athletes, but they were motivating us. One young athlete turned toward the crowd and started raising his hands to have us cheer more. He wasn’t doing this for himself, but he wanted us to cheer louder for another athlete from his country. I wonder if I would have the same unselfish support for others.

Wendy Sanuik SOWG

The next day, we had the opportunity to volunteer in the Coca-Cola booth at the festival. It was a great opportunity to interact with these athletes up close, in a personal setting. The thing I noticed most was their pure heart. You looked in their eyes and felt like you could see right through to their true spirit. No hidden agendas, not stress. Just pure joy, love and enthusiasm for life. 

I’m motivated to volunteer to help my 16-year-old boys understand the value of giving back. It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were the ones receiving the support. These amazing athletes reminded me to live in the moment and be present with a pure heart and enthusiasm for life.     

Wendy Sanuik is a senior national sales executive for The Coca-Cola Company.