Friendly skies: Volunteers for Special Olympics receive frequent-flier miles

John McGarvey might be able to fly home for free at the end of Spring Quarter.

McGarvey and other Special Olympics student volunteers can receive 5,000 bonus miles from United Airlines for every 50 hours of community service they perform.

“The partnership between United Airlines and Special Olympics is a win-win situation,” he said. “We get great service and they get to fly quality people.”

Students can receive a maximum of 10,000 miles each year, according to the United Airlines Web site.

McGarvey, Special Olympics campus outreach co-chairman and a Speech senior, said he has been receiving frequent-flier miles since 1998.

But this is the first year he will receive miles because of community service.

“It’s great for us to be rewarded for volunteering,” McGarvey said. “It’s nice to have people in the community recognize our work.”

But some think the program is unfair because it does not reward students for all community-service activities.

“It raises a question of philosophy,” said Andrzej Moyseowicz, the other campus outreach co-chairman and a McCormick junior. “Other groups are putting in just as much time, and it’s not fair they aren’t getting the rewards from United Airlines.”

Special Olympics, an annual athletic competition for community members with disabilities, attracts more than 500 volunteers each year, McGarvey said.

The athletes participate in a wide range of events, including a softball and tennis ball throw, wheelchair races and a 400-meter run.

“Special Olympics is a great organization that brings together two different communities — Northwestern and the outside community,” McGarvey said. “It brings together people with diverse backgrounds, with and without disabilities.”

This year’s qualifying track and field event for the athletes will be held at Glenbrook South High School on May 7.

Student volunteers who want to join the program must get a frequent-flier membership though the United Airlines Web site, said Matt Forti, transportation and facilities coordinator for Special Olympics.

Forti, a Weinberg senior, said about 10 to 20 Special Olympics volunteers have signed up for the program. He is encouraging other students to take advantage of the opportunity.

Students also can receive free frequent-flier miles from United Airlines for volunteering for the following organizations: America’s Promise — The Alliance for Youth, Best Buddies Intern, Habitat for Humanity, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the National Mentoring Program.