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Special Olympics Profile: Bella Bregar – Teacher, Coach, Volunteer

by on June 08, 2013 3:10 PM

It's fitting that Bella Bregar’s longtime involvement in the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania began in another teaching environment.

She's a recently retired special education teacher with the State College Area School District. Bregar remembers a moment early in her career when a student in a 7th grade class approached her.

A boy by the name of Matt Prosek walked up to her desk and asked if Bregar skied. She replied that she did.

“Matt said to me, ‘then you can be our skiing coach’ because we need one,” Bregar said Friday night outside the MultiSport Facility on Penn State’s campus where the annual sports fest and victory dance was set to get underway.

Bregar still serves as the skiing coach during the winter games, but her experience eventually led to her also serving on a management team.

The Centre County Head of Delegation and Program Manager jokes that she handles “a little bit of everything.”

Specifically, her team is responsible for several logistical concerns, meeting once a month to discuss finances, coaching certifications, fundraising, and innovative ways to improve the program.

Her on-site job duties throughout the three day competition are an extension of what she does throughout the year, making sure athletes know where they are going and remain safe at all times.

“Our main objective is to handle all the behind the scenes stuff so the coaches can go about coaching. Usually there are not any problems, but if there are, you step in and handle it right away so things continue running smoothly.”

“We try to handle all the details so the coaches can do what they’re here for and the athletes can do what they’re here for.”

One of Bregar’s favorite memories taught her a valuable lesson that prepared her for the management job. Years ago at a Winter Olympics event, a volunteer once put an athlete’s shoes in a locker. Due to the overwhelming number of lockers at the facility, no one remembered where the shoes were, and the athlete had to walk back to the bus in the rain without shoes.

“It was unfortunate, but we laughed about it at the time, and it served a good teaching moment in making sure everyone has all of their belongings before we leave.”

While Special Olympics runs on a similar routine from year-to-year, one positive trend that Bregar has noticed is a more athlete oriented approach to the games.

“Twenty-one years ago, you didn’t see them speaking at opening ceremonies and doing some of the stuff they do now. They have a much bigger voice within the organization to suggest changes and improvements. It’s a great thing. It’s cool to see the athletes involved with that.”

Since her first year, Bregar has been attending the Special Olympics annual Friday night dance and remembers the dress code being much more formal two decades back.

Now, fresh off competition, participants show up in shorts and colorful T-shirts, many donning Penn State gear. Years ago, they wore suits and dresses.

Nicole Jones, Director of Communications for Special Olympics Pennsylvania explains that while some other states hold a dance after the competition is completely over, they opt to do it Friday night when all of the athletes are still in town. Jones says the event is not required but most still choose to show up.

Bregar echoes those sentiments.

“Everyone loves the dance. This is like a prom night for them,” she says.

Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to
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