Bob Thomas volunteered at Abilities United in 1978 and
vowed to return. He did so in 2012 as our volunteer story teller!

I first became aware of and volunteered at Abilities United over 30 years ago, but the experience made such a lasting impression on me that in 2012 I came back to volunteer again.

In the spring of 1978 I was in high school in Menlo Park. A classmate was volunteering at Abilities United (then CAR) with school-aged children. She asked several of us on the basketball team to come over and work with some of the children who would be participating in Special Olympics that coming weekend. Three or four of us volunteered, showed off a little, and then took the kids to the local basketball court to work a bit on their basketball skills.
I was an 18-year old jock at the time and pretty full of myself, but I was touched by these kids who were so happy, and so full of love and appreciation. It meant so much to them to get a high five (actually it was a low five at that time…), or to get a hug. A couple of the kids wanted to hold my hand as we all walked back from the basketball court, and instantly this cocky teenager was choking back a few tears. That was 35 years ago but it’s still a very vivid memory.
I then went off to college, got busy with family and a career in high tech, but always remembered that special day in 1978. For years I had a vague intention of someday getting involved again at what is now Abilities United. Finally in early 2012 I called, introduced myself, and was invited in for a tour. First I was introduced to a few participants who were around at lunch, when a middle-aged man came up to me and shook my hand. I later found out that he had just learned how to shake hands, and I was both humbled and excited at his progress. Then at the pool I was amazed to hear how several people who were told they could never walk again have been through rehabilitation with aquatics and are now walking. I was overwhelmed how this is a place where miracles can happen!
Since then I’ve been volunteering at Abilities United, helping the marketing department with social media and doing interviews in support of the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration. Volunteering here is immensely rewarding. Often I’ll drive over to Abilities United on my lunch break, preoccupied with the ebbs and flows of various topics of my workday. However, after spending just a bit of time at with the people I am interviewing,  I’m in a very different state of mind, amazed with the quality and dedication of people at Abilities United, and inspired by the incredible spirit of their participants.
Abilities United is an exceptional organization doing fantastic work with special people, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to help and be a part of this wonderful group.

Written by Bob Thomas. Edited by Wendy Kuehnl.