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Cheering on Special Olympics Athletes in Their Sister’s Memory

For two Kaiser Permanente volunteers, this summer’s Special Olympics World Games are a celebration of one exceptional life.

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Pictured from left: Kathy  Harrison-Imel, Jeanne Harrison, Cissy McGee.

The Special Olympics have a special place in the hearts of sisters Kathy Harrison-Imel, administrative specialist, Drug Information Services, Downey Medical Center, and Cissy McGee, project manager, Obstetrics-Gynecology, Baldwin Park Medical Center. Although they do not often sign up for volunteering opportunities, both sisters have committed to donating their time and talents to the Special Olympics World Games this summer in memory of their sister, Jeanne, who competed regularly in the local games until her death in 1999.

Jeanne was born in 1958 without any disabilities. At the age of 2 ½, she experienced the beginning of an illness that left her both mentally and physically disabled by the age of four. As she grew older, she lost the ability to use most of the right side of her body.

From the beginning of her illness, the entire family was involved in helping Jeanne reach her maximum potential. She earned a high school diploma and worked for many years at Goodwill Industries, always encouraged by her eight siblings to remain physically and socially active.

When Jeanne was 16, the family moved to the city of Carson where they found the Carson Therapeutics Group, a program that expanded her social life and introduced her to the world of sports.

“My sister loved to compete in the local Special Olympics, and I was always right there by her side,” says Harrison-Imel. “Although the right side of her body was paralyzed, she really packed a punch with her left arm. She excelled in the frisbee throw, the softball throw, and various track events.

Harrison-Imel and McGee were both thrilled when they learned that Kaiser Permanente was Founding Champion and Official Health Partner of this summer’s Special Olympics World Games, and they did not hesitate to sign up as volunteers. “Volunteering for the games really helps to put things in perspective,” said McGee. “All of the issues we carry day-to-day seem trivial when you witness the sheer joy these athletes gain from competing.  I believe that our world would be a better place if everyone took the time to volunteer.”

Between them, they will volunteer a total of 14 days during the Special Olympics, providing support to the athletes and event organizers throughout the events.

“My sister is gone now, but I will still be there volunteering my time as if she were one of the competitors there,” said Harrison-Imel. “I know that she will make sure to have a great viewing spot in heaven, where she will be cheering on all of the wonderful competitors.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities in your community, visit: http://community.kp.org/be-involved

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