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Youth is no barrier for volunteer
25 October 2004
by Treena Shapiro

Honolulu, USA: With interest in four sports, 9-year-old Vincent Tachiyama plays hard, but he also works hard to help athletes enjoy sporting events of their own in the Special Olympics.

Vincent has been volunteering with Special Olympics Hawai'i since December, the first time he was old enough to help out. He has volunteered in the Holiday Classic winter games, the 'Aukake Classic statewide summer games and the Cop-on-Top fund-raiser at Safeway stores around the island.

The Punahou School fourth-grader's mother suggested he volunteer for Special Olympics, but it was his decision to stick with it. "I tried it out once and decided it was nice to help people and it was also fun to do," he said. "I thought it would be a good thing to do to help the community."

Because of his age, Vincent can't help with keeping score or coaching, so he helps out with hospitality and merchandising, and has become a stickler for folding shirts neatly.

While his duties keep him pretty busy, he was able to watch some soccer and bocce. "It's kind of nice to see them happy while they're playing," Vincent said.

During the Cop-on-Top fund-raiser in August, Vincent had fun collecting money, especially since his mother recruited a few of his friends to help out.

Vincent plays golf, tennis, baseball and basketball, but said he manages to keep up with school by doing homework at school or before practice, sometimes finishing at night.

His academic performance last year earned him a nickname: "The Professor."

Although he is an aspiring historian, Vincent said his favorite subject is math, in part because history classes will start when he's older.

Vincent recognizes how important it is to continue volunteering. "Special Olympics wouldn't be there if it wasn't for volunteers," he said.

"It's so great to see this type of dedication to community service at such a young age," said Sue Ping Kuo, volunteer coordinator for Special Olympics Hawai'i.

"With Vincent, you can tell that he really wants to help out, purely out of the kindness of his young heart," she said.

Who helped you? "My mom told me about it." Kuo also helped him to find things that he can help with.

Do you have any advice for other kids who might want to follow your example? "It's a good thing to help with. It makes you feel good and it's fun sometimes."