Volunteer service is a way of life and a family affair for the Shuster brothers. For the past several years, Stephen (20), Justin (18), JP (18)and Alex (15) have dedicated much of their free time serving others. They have given over 150 hours volunteering every Saturday afternoon at the Spring Hill Recreation Center working with the Adapted Aquatic Program.
Spring Hill has over 30 athletes who register for Special Olympics Trainings three sessions annually. These athletes with developmental disabilities are true champions in every sense of the word. They train, work hard, and stay focused on reaching their goal. The athletes are intent on success. Success to them may not mean winning every race but overcoming all the obstacles.
Volunteers are the key at Spring Hill. Students require individual training and the Shuster brothers are dedicated servants at the facility. Stephen, Justin, JP and Alex fill the need at the center. They are competitive swimmers who give back to their sport and to their community by sharing their talents. The brothers make a commitment to make a difference.
Parents, as well as the swimmers and coaches admire each of the brothers. The Shusters know the importance of being a consistent part of the athlete’s lives. They take great pains to build the bond of trust that is so crucial to teaching new skills. One young swimmer was fearful of water, but over the weeks of classes; he acquired the confidence to trust the boys and know they would be on each side of him while he swam. The young boy was able to continue his lessons and competed in the Special Olympics State Meet.
The Shusters’ knowledge of swimming and their excellent communication skills have equipped them well for their service. The athletes are at ease with them, and the brothers consistently encourage and build-up their self-esteem. The brothers work hand in hand with the coach to set individual goals and help the team work together to achieve them. Safety is the focus; however, the Shusters always make sure everyone has fun also. They lead team games at the end of the classes to build relationships and promote unity.
The Volunteer Center of Fairfax, Virginia recognized the Shuster brothers for their contribution to the community with the 1997 Family of the Year Award. The McLean Rotary Club awarded Stephen with the Community Service Award for his outstanding efforts in the Fairfax area.
The Shuster brothers have given of themselves to provide others with love and time. These young men have provided personal attention and one-on-one instruction that is needed for these athletes to reach for the “gold”. While their emphasis is on teaching swimming, they have also developed a relationship with the athletes. They inspire the athletes and let them know they are special people and can succeed at their goals in life.