Serve #24 – Rayanne

serve24_round1_lr~ Serve #24 ~

Guest post by Aimee Libby

Kids these days…”

That’s a familiar phrase we often hear with not-so-great connotations. Well, I’d like to tell you about a particular “kid” who’s breaking the stereotype of this younger generation.

Meet Rayanne.

Rayanne always has a smile on her face. She’s a high school student. She loves music. She loves people. She has a quiet, servant’s heart. How do I know Rayanne, you ask? It’s an interesting story, actually.

A little over a year ago, I was helping put on our annual Ogni Voce special needs choir performance in conjunction with the STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. Rayanne showed up that chilly winter night with several other students who were told they’d receive extra credit for choir class if they stopped in to hang out and sing with our Special Olympics group. Seemed like an easy way to get extra credit, right? Later that night, as Head of Delegation for our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team, I received an email from Rayanne saying how much fun she had with our group. She wanted to know what else our group did and how she could get involved. There was a lot going on and I hadn’t really even met Rayanne that evening, so I couldn’t put a face with a name. Honestly, my first thought upon reading her email was, “Sure, we’ll see how this plays out – probably another teen who’s ‘interested’ but never follows through”. By noon the next day, Rayanne had submitted all of the necessary paperwork and completed the required online certification to become a volunteer coach with our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. She was at the next team practice with a big smile on her face, ready to assist wherever needed.

Now, some of you are probably reading this and are thinking, “Hmmm, so…big deal. A kid came to something for extra credit – what makes them ‘so great’ for doing that?” What makes Rayanne so great and such an asset to our group is this: She’s always there. She shows up week in and week out. She shows up at all of our team’s competitions and tournaments. She shows up at all of our social/community events. She even checks in regularly with me so she can make sure to align her work schedule with our team’s calendar. She connects with me ahead of events/outings to see where I need her to help out. She eagerly shows up bright and early on a Saturday morning, hours before any other teenager would rollout of bed, so she can support and cheer on an athlete one-on-one for a competition. She’s something that so many people in our day and age, both kids and adults, lack – she’s consistent.

Not only is Rayanne consistent with our group, she continually demonstrates her dedication and heart for our Stallions athletes outside of what is truly expected. Shortly after getting involved with our team, Rayanne started volunteering regularly in the special education classroom at STMA High School where many of our Stallions athletes attend. The high school special education staff adores her and are so impressed by her genuine desire to meet each kid where they’re at. Rayanne is constantly seeking out ways to include and embrace the athletes within the school setting. Anytime I stop in at STMA High School and see Rayanne in the halls or at a school pepfest, she’s hanging out with a Stallions athlete…as friends, not because she has to. There’s no obligation beyond weekly practices for our Stallions coaches, but that doesn’t matter to Rayanne. Her heart shines through the most in settings outside of our regularly scheduled team practices.

By now, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a “fan” of Rayanne, but, I have kind of a unique perspective on all of this above and beyond what I’ve shared already. Yes, I’m the Head of Delegation for the Stallions Special Olympics group, and volunteers like Rayanne are invaluable to our team – we wouldn’t exist without them. But, I’m also a parent of an almost-13-year-old Stallions athlete. This perspective is the one that’s the most important in my opinion. I can honestly say, seeing Rayanne with our Stallions athletes puts a lump in my throat and makes my eyes “sweat”. In a world that typically views people’s value and worth by how great their abilities are, Rayanne sees each one of our kids as the unique, joy-filled, perfect individual God designed them to be. She doesn’t get caught up in the often-unpronounceable name of a certain syndrome or disability an athlete may be afflicted with. Nope. All she sees is a person…with personality, incredible abilities, and with so much love and joy to give. That’s all any parent wants. For their child to be seen, valued and loved. Rayanne does that effortlessly, and in the process, blesses so many families within the community.


stallions2017_lrAthletes and Coaches

In a world of constant change and uncertainty, our athletes who thrive on routine find comfort and security in knowing they’ll see Rayanne’s smiling face any time they show up to a STMA Stallions event. And that makes all the difference in the world. Her consistency across the board shows athletes and parents alike that she’s the real deal. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. This couldn’t be truer of Rayanne. Her quiet demeanor may not be flashy and scream out to others, but her actions are seen and heard loud and clear.

Rayanne, you’re a one-of-a-kind world changer. Thank you for serving our group in this way. We’re forever grateful for your heart to serve, and that you came out in search of some “extra credit” that brisk winter night.

Thanks for being consistent. No matter what.





Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375





            “Tell Your Story”


Posted on March 3, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Grandma Janice

    Cool story. Thank you Shawn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: