Coweta County Young Athlete Won Award for Not Giving Up
Young Athlete Joselyn Coleman recently received The Norah McGraw Award, which is presented annually by Coweta County Special Olympics in honor of the memory of the teacher and Special Olympics supporter.
The 7 year old has been diagnosed with chromosomal abnormalities, a congenital heart defect and a developmental delay. When she got to Cathy Snyder’s classroom at Western Elementary School in August 2011 she was unable to walk without assistance or a walker.
“By Christmas she would hold one of my fingers but when I would try to have her let go, she would panic,” Snyder said. “The physical therapist saw the bar in the Young Athlete’s kit and tried having her hold it in front of herself while she was walking.”
Joselyn was walking by herself and didn’t know it. The bar was a perfect accommodation, Snyder said. She is now able to walk, with an adult shadowing her, but without the bar.
Even though Paige Copeland, a Special Olympics athlete, has faced many challenges, it’s her outlook that has made the difference and helped her become the athlete ambassador on last year’s state Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Executive Council. Paige, who recently completed her two-year term, is the second athlete to serve on the LETR Executive Council. Paige, of Henry County, was selected through a nomination process based on her high community involvement and her previous role as Miss Special Henry County. Paige has been involved in Special Olympics since high school, and is involved in Henry County Parks and Recreation Adult Program. She has participated in softball, bowling, bocce, basketball, and equestrian and been a “fan in the stands.” During her reign as Miss Special Henry County, she attended and spoke at 70 different events. She loves people and has a way of lighting up the room, when she enters. She speaks highly of her experiences with Special Olympics. “Being special has brought many challenges into my life, and all special needs people have big challenges in their lives. We all face challenges. But whether or not you’re special, you can face the challenges by seeing them as storms, or you can see them as rainbows. I choose to see mine as rainbows, and I challenge everyone to do the same,” she said recently.
Douglasville race car driver, Mason Massey, brought his race car (with the Special Olympics Logo on the hood) out to the State Special Olympics Georgia Summer Games on Saturday, May 18 to show his support for the athletes and wish them the best in their competition!
Long-time Special Olympics Georgia athlete, Katy Wilson, posing with her medals she won from her Gymnastics competition at the 2013 State Summer Games.
Pictured: Special Olympics Georgia CEO, Georgia Milton-Sheats, Richard Sisko, State Deputy, Knights of Columbus Georgia Council and Jerry Farnell, President of the Columbian Charities of Georgia, Inc.
Special Olympics Georgia appreciates and values the relationship with the Knights of Columbus in Georgia and thanks them for the $30,000 donation.
Grant Warnock, the One Pulaski County Athlete at State Games, Comes with His Own Cheering Section
When Grant Warnock swims at State Games this weekend, he’ll have a whole lot of people in “Go Grant, Go!” T-shirts, who have traveled two hours from home to watch him swim. After all, not everyone has a day declared for them by Hawkinsville city commissioners, as Grant does with Grant Warnock Day.
Grant is the only athlete from Pulaski County – which is 50 miles from Macon and 128 miles from Atlanta – who competes at State Games. This weekend, he will swim the 50 meter freestyle and the 100 meter freestyle at Emory University after spending many hours swimming laps at the Taylor Regional Hospital’s Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in his small hometown. His grandmother Margaret Tharpe takes him every day after school.
Athletes in Pulaski County go to tri-county competitions. This is Grant’s sixth state games. “We stepped out on a limb,” said his Mom Dawn Warnock. “We don’t have a swim team. We just called SOGA to see what they have. We didn’t even know how he would do. But it’s become a great way for him to stay in shape and it’s changed his whole person.
“Swimming has calmed him down. It makes the world part of his world, instead of him only being in his world,” she said.
After Grant has gone to every game of his older brother Chance’s, State Games is an opportunity for Chance and his friends to cheer for Grant.
“This weekend is all about Grant,” Dawn said.
Brothers’ Best Cheerleaders at State Summer Games: Each Other
Twins Roderick and Ricky Brewster, declared at birth by doctors to never walk, have together defied odds and become a winning duo.
The Marietta athletes will compete in the 100 yard dash and the long jump next weekend at State Summer Games at Emory University.
Even though each have won 20 gold medals and at least 18 silvers in the last three years; they know being winners isn’t always about the score. Just being able to have a voice and know they have value makes Special Olympics worthwhile, said their Mom Marjoriette Williams. “It was one of the best things that’s happened to them,” she said.
Tightly bonded, the 21-year-olds pray and stretch together before a competition. You might hear them yelling at each other. “It’s love but it also helps get my energy up,” Roderick said. Ricky hollers to him to run, run far on the track. In softball, Roderick is known as “Hot Rod,” and Ricky is “Pretty Ricky.”
They got into Special Olympics after Roderick practiced with the high school baseball team for six weeks until he was cut from the team and broken hearted. “They wouldn’t let me play. But I was the first one at practice and the last one to leave,” he said. But, Roderick said, you don’t have to have just the right tool to succeed. “Like my Mother and Father have always said, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’”
His will made a way for a new club for athletes in Cobb County called C.C.BITS, which stands for Cobb County and the groups’ team names – Bulldogs, Indians, Terminators and Steelers. The plan is to make a difference in the community and create fundraisers for their teams. Roderick wrote the pledge all members are required to memorize:
“United we stand. I trust in God. I love my community and will respect its laws. I will play fair but strive to win. But if I lose, I will have done my best.”
Cobb Athlete Lach Gellis to Wear “Lightning Shoes” at State Summer Games
The four feet and three inches tall Cobb County athlete weighs 55 pounds but will still bravely wait for the taller athletes at the start line. “He genuinely likes people and wants to befriend them,” his Mom Ashley Gellis said and laughed.
Next weekend, at State Summer Games, Lach will test out his lightning shoes in the 100 yard dash and compete in the long jump. Asked what he thinks about before a competition, Lach said, “I think about winning a gold medal.”
Last year, he won two gold medals in the 50 yard dash and the softball toss. This year, he’s hoping to do the same.
Lach, who has high-functioning autism, began running a couple of years ago and named his first pair of red running shoes, “lightning shoes.” Since then as he’s gotten faster, he calls each new pair “lightning shoes.”
Practice makes perfect. Each week, Lach runs and rides his bike in his backyard. He competes on his neighborhood swim team and has run in two non-Special Olympics 5K races. In one hosted by the Georgia Symphony Orchestra he won second place in his division and he received a finisher’s ribbon with his Mom in the Shamrock ‘N Roll race.
When Lach isn’t training or in school, he loves to be outside and collects field guides about everything from Audubon birds to Falconry.
Summer Games Athlete of Annandale Village has a Black Belt but Greets with Handshake
Lenny Greenblatt, turning 70 this month, is definitely well-rounded. In a few weeks, he’ll compete in volleyball at State Summer Games at Emory University. And he competes in the other sports offered at Annandale Village in: basketball, bocce, softball, cycling, and athletics. And one that isn’t: Tang Soo Do. Yet, aside from sports, he’s quite busy serving others.
“He not only competes in these sports, but is also one of our top athletes,” said recreation instructor Adrienne Clay. “Lenny is a great teammate and is always encouraging his fellow athletes.”
He offers a helping hand around campus whether it is visiting the local day program or the local nursing home. Lenny is not only admired at Annandale, but also in the community of Suwanee. As Lenny has dreamed of being a police officer, it was easy for a friendship to be developed with the local police department. They often make visits to Annandale in Lenny’s honor.
Even though you’ll find the black belt practicing Tang Soo Do each week, visitors of Annandale Village will find Lenny among the first to greet them with a handshake and a smile.
Lenny will be competing in modified volleyball at the Summer Games in May.
On May 1st, GEICO presented a $59,000 check to Special Olympics Georgia and Middle Georgia Special Olympics. This donation was made possible by the hundreds of Macon-area runners and corporate sponsors that participated in the 30th Annual GEICO Road Race on March 2nd. Over the years, the GEICO Road Race has raised more than $700,000 for Special Olympics Georgia and Middle Georgia Special Olympics. Pictured above are Randy Thompson (GEICO Road Race Chair), Timmy Pruitt (Area 7 Board Athlete Representative) Susan Skolnick (SOGA Director of Development and Major Gifts), Nalini Isaac (Area 7 Management Team Chairperson), the GEICO Gecko, and Mary Zarcone (GEICO Southeastern Region VP).
Special Olympics Georgia athletes attended the annual shareholders meeting for the Coca-Cola Company with 900 in attendance. Thanks Coca-Cola!
Special Olympics athletes accomplished yet another milestone. Katy Wilson and Andy Miyares did more than “open” happiness, they unleashed it, to a packed auditorium during The Coca-Cola Company’s Annual Shareholders meeting at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, Georgia.
Following business titan Warren Buffett and inventor Dean Kamen, Andy and Katy, joined by 12 Georgia Special Olympics athletes, and Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola Chairman & CEO and Member of the Special Olympics International Board Directors, stole the show, bringing the crowd to their feet and leaving not a dry eye in the house
“One of Cola-Cola’s slogans is open happiness. That is how I feel about Special Olympics. It has opened happiness in my life. The skills we learn in our sports carry over into our jobs and our life skills,” Katy said. “Your support makes all this possible.”
Please watch this inspirational segment from the meeting which takes place at 1:58:20:
Coca-Cola could have closed their meeting in many ways, but they chose Special Olympics and our athletes Katy and Andy to leave the lasting impression on their shareholders. This is a testament to the strength of our brand and the power our athletes have to unleash the human spirit.
Assistant Property Manager, Jenny Lane, rappelling 20 stories down Buckhead Tower at Lenox Square for the Over the Edge event for Special Olympics Georgia held on Saturday, April 20th where Special Olympics raised $184,000!
Parmenter Realty Partners and Buckhead Tower Support Special Olympics Georgia at the Over the Edge fundraiser.
Tucker athlete Elena Weaver received the 11 Who Care Community Service Award hosted by 11Alive on Tuesday, April 23rd, beginning with a walk down the red carpet. Elena was nominated by Children’s Hospitals of Atlanta for all of her volunteer work for the past 4 years (over 2,600 hours).
Elena is generously donating half of her award money to Egleston’s Camp Courage for kids with craniofacial abnormalities -which is one of her diagnoses. The other half is being awarded to SOGA to help pay for three Special Olympics athletes to attend SOGA’s week-long Camp Inspire. Elena was accompanied by her family and their guest SOGA Director of Development Susan Skolnick.
You can watch this years’ Community Service Awards show on 11Alive (NBC), Saturday, April 27th from 7:30-9 p.m. and on MyATL on Sunday, April 28th from 1-2:30 p.m.
Congratulations to Elena and her family!
Elena’s speech at the 11Alive Community Service Awards:
First, I want to thank Chris Jones and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta for their nomination of me for this award.
Second, I want to say it is an honor to join all of these amazing people as we share the 11Alive 2013 Community Service Award.
I have had the most amazing opportunity to be able to work for over 4 years as a volunteer in Egleston Children’s Hospital … the same hospital where I was a patient when I was a child.
I love being able to help the moms and dads when they are trying to find their way. Whether it’s collecting wheelchairs and wagons for the children – or sharing a smile with a child – or cleaning the toys – or encouraging a new volunteer – I am so privileged to be able to do everything I can do to offer a little bit of comfort and help.
I know what it’s like to be one of the patients, and I know what it was like for my mom and dad during those times. My life is rich and my heart is full because I have the honor of being part of this wonderful organization.
The Rotary Club of Dunwoody continues it generous support of Special Olympics Georgia with a gift of $4,000 for Camp Inspire. The presentation was made at their March 22nd Club meeting. Pictured above are Susan Schwall (Club President), Susan Skolnick (SOGA Director of Development and Major Gifts), Laura Kaan (Club Past President), and Chief Billy Grogan (Dunwoody Police Department).
April Athlete of the Month: Omar Ramos
-By Dalton Coach Laura Ogas
I remember Omar and I strolling through the school, and a second grade class came running into the hallway to cheer him on! The commotion brought out the other second grade classes, too.They all know him, love him and support him daily.
Omar Ramos is a second grade student at Antioch Elementary. He has Down Syndrome and significant vision loss.
When he entered school, he was not able to walk. He would move around the classroom by “army crawling” on his belly. Other than floor/play time, he spent most of his academic day in a stroller or wheelchair.
He has been walking with the assistance of a walker for the last two years, but still spent a considerable amount of time in his stroller.
In our local Special Olympics competitions, Omar has progressed from participating in Level A Athletics. Last year, he competed in the Soccer Skills.This year, based on his progress and current ability level, he will play as a member of a unified soccer team. He is now able to walk with and without his walker (with minimal assistance) and he absolutely LOVES to kick the soccer ball all over the court. The unified partners help keep the ball close to him so it doesn’t get out of his line of vision.
He is also now saying “kick the ball.” These words, spoken by a student who has minimal language skills, are enough to bring tears!
LAZ Parking raised $8,257 dollars from its 2012 golf tournament for Special Olympics Georgia and will be recognized as an Official Sponsor of the State Summer Games and a Super Splash Sponsor of the Duck Derby. Pictured above are Nick Tuz (General Manager, LAZ Parking) and Susan Skolnick (Director of Development and Major Gifts, Special Olympics Georgia).
The first ever Georgia Elvis Festival, produced by Sherry Management, LLC in association with Misty River Media and Tributes Radio, took place March 14-17 in Brunswick. Special Olympics Georgia was the beneficiary charity of the event, with the Festival raising over $1,360 for SOGA athletes. The event is part of the Elvis Festival.com series of events, licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. For more information on Elvis Festival events, go to www.elvisfestival.com.
Atlanta Silverbacks hosted soccer skills clinic for Special Olympics athlete clinic March 15
About 50 athletes from Gwinnett, Fayette and Rockdale counties, and Annandale Village learned how to dribble the soccer ball, shoot it and make a goal from Silverbacks players. The clinic was led by Silverbacks head coach Brian Haynes.
SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament hosted Special Olympics Georgia basketball exhibition match March 8 at Gwinnett Arena
Rockdale County athletes traveled to Gwinnett Arena for a exhibition game during the UGA vs LSU game. Athletes received standing ovations from the tournament crowd and met the UGA cheerleaders and the teams’ mascots.
On March 2nd, GEICO hosted the 30th Anniversary of its 5K Road Race to benefit Area 7 Special Olympics Georgia athletes and Special Olympics Georgia on the state level. The race has grown significantly over the years and has raised more than $650,000. Pictured above is the start of the race and the GEICO Gecko with Area 7 athletes who participated in the race.
Two things encourage Donald Ray, 14, to cross the finish line at athletic events: a Clifford the Big Red Dog book or a volunteer wearing red at the finish line. It’s easy to see why his friends look forward to cheering him on at practice. He is an inspiration.
The athlete, of Cobb County, has become more social over the years because of Special Olympics and his family. He was born with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic disorder, but that doesn’t stop him from accomplishing his goals on the field.
“He is a real treat to have on the team and I hope to be his coach for many years to come. His family is a tremendous support. They’re always the first to volunteer to help with anything. Each week at practice his parents and brother are there cheering him on to the finish line and it’s great to see,” said Coach Tony Hranek.
Hranek’s daughter and SOGA staffer said, “To watch him go from not communicating at all to now giving hugs and high fives (even if you’re not wearing red) makes you stand back and realize “Wow! Special Olympics really does change lives.’”
So come out to Summer Games at Emory and cheer on Donald Ray. You can’t miss him — he’ll be the athlete crossing the finish line with a Clifford book in his hand. Don’t forget to wear your red!
Special Olympics Georgia (SOGA) Athlete, Katy Wilson, presents
award to Camp Inspire and SOGA supporters, the Knights of Columbus Georgia Council
USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships
USA Gymnastics continues its partnership with Special Olympics for the third annual USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships, May 4-5, at the Cobb County Gymnastics Center in Marietta, GA. The annual national event will feature competition in artistic gymnastics (men, women and unified), rhythmic gymnastics (individual, group and unified) and TeamGym.
The artistic competition is for skill Levels A, B, 1, 2, 3 and 4, with rhythmic gymnastics for Levels A, B, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Competition includes both individual and Unified gymnasts. A Unified gymnast is a partner without intellectual disabilities who will compete the same routine as the Special Olympics athlete, and the pair’s scores will be combined for a team total. For rhythmic group, there are an equal number of Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners in each group. TeamGym may have both Unified partners and Special Olympics athletes. TeamGym is a competitive version of group gymnastics that features squads of athletes performing together in two events – group floor exercise and group jump.
Men’s and women’s gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics will follow Special Olympics rules, while TeamGym will use USA Gymnastics rules. Participant entry forms are due by April 1, 2013.
The Championship is hosted locally by Chattooga Gymnastics, Special Olympics Georgia and Special Olympics Cobb County.
Athletes were cheered on as they played an exhibition game during half-time at the Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball game Friday night at the new McCamish Hall. Georgia Tech donated seats in the high-profile Callaway Club to watch the game. Long-time Georgia Tech fan and Annandale resident Mike was invited to announce the start of the exhibition match at the mic at the announcer’s table.
A snapshot from State Indoor Winter Games:Moby, of the syndicated Moby in the Morning, prepares the crowd for Cobb athlete Allison Ferrer to lead everyone in the athlete oath at Opening Ceremony: “Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Photo by Mark Craig
Moving on Up: Athlete Shows What Confidence Can Do at Winter Games
Michelle Pratt’s 13 years of sports training and competition in Maryland, Florida and now Georgia has led her to become captain of her basketball team, the Lakers, at State Indoor Winter Games last month in Cobb County. She was one of about 1,800
athletes who competed that weekend.
And with her history of learned skills and newly developed leadership, the Lakers did well. They earned fourth place in Division 3 at All Tournament Players Park. “I was happy with our competition. Everybody was doing what they were taught to do,” she said. In addition to competing, Michelle led athletes in warm-ups before games and served as a mentor. “It means a lot to me. If they need anything, they come to me.”
Someday she wants to take the team captain position to a higher level: assistant coach.
That goal setting and personal growth is credited to sports competition and social development she learned through Special Olympics Georgia. Michelle and her sister Angela, who played basketball with the Mavericks at Winter Games, have developed confidence in themselves, said their Mom Evelyn. “They get to be a part of a team, where they don’t feel different. They’re not alone,” she said.
Feeling “normal” and having high self-esteem is what it’s all about, Evelyn said.
Editor’s note: Michelle is the 2013 Athlete Ambassador to SOGA’s Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Executive Committee, which was created for the purpose of managing and planning LETR activities.
Dunwoody Chief and Georgia LETR Final Leg Runner Billy Grogan and Special Olympics Georgia Athlete Marnie Hornsby with her coach Diane Mikulis of Maryland at Opening Ceremony in South Korea. Congrats to you both for your outstanding achievements!!
Marlow’s Tavern Emory Point held its official Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening on January 22nd. Special Olympics Georgia was the recipient of monies patrons generously donated during the restaurant’s Sneak Preview Days and VIP Party. Pictured above are Bianca Mallory (Dekalb Chamber of Commerce Administration and Special Projects Manager), Kim Jensen-Pitts (Marlow’s Tavern Marketing), Derek Van Cleve (Marlow’s Tavern Chef de Cuisine), Chris Hammers (Marlow’s Tavern General Manager), Celestine Hankerson (Special Olympics Georgia Senior Corporate Relations Manager), and Leonardo McClarty (Dekalb Chamber of Commerce President).
Peter Franklin (The Coca-Cola Company), Jack Kelly (BP), and Paige Kelly (Bank of America), of pose for a picture at the South Korean World Games send off with Marnie Horsnby (World Games Athlete), Tara Torbert (World Games Coach), and Sissy Cooley (World Games Athlete.)
Special Olympics Georgia athletes and coaches representing Georgia at the South Korean World Games pose with their families, the Coca-Cola Bear, and retired professional basketball player, Dikembe Mutombo, at the World Games send off at the World of Coke.
Meet a few athletes competing in State Indoor Winter Games Jan. 25-27
When Stephanie Connelly of Walton County roller skates at State Indoor Winter Games January 25-27, she’ll come with a strong family support and athletic accomplishment behind her brought on by Special Olympics and a high school cross country coach. After Coach Coleman at Monroe High School spotted Stephanie and her running speed at her young age, she began training with his team and when eligible, competed and ended up winning a couple of silver regional medals.
Her family also began training with Stephanie. When she needed to run on the road for cross country, her family either rode bikes behind her or drove in a car along her route. And when she ran a half-marathon in Special World Games in Raleigh, NC, her mom Ulene Connelly said 40 family members were with her. The family has even behind Stephanie’s team financially. Over the years, Ulene and her husband Steve garnered fundraising support for their local Special Olympics team from their church and Steve’s job at the Walton EMC. Being able to participate in a high school sport, while students with special needs were still isolated, and in Special Olympics has made the difference for Stephanie and for the family, said Stephanie’s mom.
When Valdosta athlete Steve Lawson’s parents died close in time of each other a few years ago, he quickly learned to live independently and make more friends through his competitions and relationships with Special Olympics. He’s quite a valuable teammate, said his coach and Valdosta local coordinator Tammy Crosby. Every time she sees Lawson, he’s smiling and is very easy going, Crosby said. Even though he started competing about a year ago, he’s competed in all of the State Games, collecting a ribbon, two silver medals and one bronze medal. All the time and effort he’s put into practicing basketball skills Monday nights and strong friend connections will come into play at State Winter Games Jan. 25-27 when he competes again in basketball skills.
Winter Games basketball, basketball skills and gymnastics athletes from the Just People agency in Lilburn, Sandy Springs and Roswell have been preparing for more than competition over the last several months, they’ve created a civic club arm of Kiwanis called AKtion (The “K” stands for Kiwanis) and are ready to serve. AKtion is a community service group for adults who live with disabilities, the newest club of Kiwanis programs worldwide. The 25-member club teamed up with the Young Professional Kiwanis group and plan to combine efforts this year. They’ve done three Habitat for Humanity projects with Clark Howard and plan to again this year. They’ve also done recycling projects on Saturdays in Sandy Springs. “I’m proud of my club,” said Bobbie Jo Williams, who is also an athlete. “If I’m able to give back, I’m going to do it.”
You can easily find Rod Smith playing basketball at State Indoor Winter Games Jan. 25-27. He’s the six feet and six inches tall guy playing center running really fast. “He loves it,” said his grandmother Sarah Smith, who raised 25-year-old Smith. Thankfully one of his doctors were correct when he they said in-grown feet would heal on their own after he was born, she said. He’s competed in Special Olympics in Walton County since he was six and still practices at Monroe High School, where he attended school. One of his gifts, Sarah said, is wanting to stay active and help people in need. Every Tuesday, he volunteers at Faith in Serving Humanity (FISH), a Walton Christian Outreach Ministry that collects clothes and toys for area families in need. He loves the constant business and movement of making sure all the donations are in good condition and that the toys still operate, she said.
Special Olympics Georgia would like to thank The Coca-Cola Company for their continued support. In the photo below taken at the Coca-Cola Annual Alumni Celebration are (L-R) SOGA Staff Member Leslie Anderson, Coke Employee and SOGA Honorary Board Member Francesca Aguilar, SOGA CEO Georgia Milton-Sheats, SOGA Athlete Katy Wilson, and Coke Employee and SOGA Honorary Board Member Jamiese Miller.
Special Olympics Georgia is extremely grateful to the Dunwoody Country Club for its very generous donation generated from the annual Dunwoody Country Club Charity Events Weekend.
Meet a few SOGA Athletes Competing at State Fall Games Oct. 12-14
Last year in the Fall Games, Matt Jones of Whitfield County won the bronze medal at his very first golf competition at State Games. But he put his pride aside when the player who won the gold struck the golf ball.
“He must be an expert. Great shot!” Matt said.
“It’s always important to win the gold,” he said. “But really, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
He says it doesn’t matter if he gets a hole-in-one when he’s putting this weekend at State Fall Games at Nob North Golf Course. Matt just loves to compete.
Even though he’s been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which is usually associated with social and communication difficulties, Matt continues to be very social and active with his family. For instance, he volunteers at Grove Level Baptist Church with children activities as his mother, Deanne Jones, is the Preschool II Director. “He makes everyone laugh and entertains the kids,” she said. “He’s such a comedian and likes to make people laugh.”
Matt began Special Olympics in Middle School, after suggestions by a teacher and his music therapist and now Fall Games GMT member Laura Ogas. After competing in swimming, bowling, track and field, skiing, equestrian and now golf, one of the biggest improvements in Matt has been accepting change and challenges, says his Mom. “He now embraces and accepts new challenges when years ago, he would not.”
One of those new challenges was earning a spot on his high school’s swim team for two years. Matt became a part of the team and earned a letter in swimming. “They just took him under their wing and made him feel a part of the team,” said his Mom, Deanne.
Now 21, Matt is working a part-time job, has many friends and is recognized about everywhere he goes. “Anytime we are at the mall or out to dinner he’s sees someone he knows,” she said.
In the past, Matt has participated in panel discussions for high school teachers and parents. He recently spoke about the Fall Games to the Rotary of Dalton and served as an alternate for World Games in Greece two years ago for swimming.
Matt has competed for 10 years in Special Olympic sports and has met many people and made many friends. “Matt loves to compete in the Games with his friends. He has a blast and cheers and congratulates other athletes whether they are on his team or not,” she said.
Not only has Special Olympics made him a better athlete, Matt said, “It’s made me a better person.”
“I’ve been doing pretty good at golf practice, so I might do better than last year, but who knows?”
Ever since Tandrea Baldridge started school in Whitfield County when her teachers made sure she and other special education students competed at local area Special Olympics Games, she’s been hooked. It’s the friendships she made over the years that gets her excited about coming to state competitions.
Tandrea, 31, will compete in bocce alongside her friends at State Fall Games this weekend at Heritage Point Park.
“It gives her a purpose and she has a place to go to,” said her Mom Velinda Baldridge. “Practice is VERY important.”
She grew up around lots of cousins as a little girl and always had someone to play with, her mom said. Tandrea, who has Down Syndrome, loves Nintendo DS Games and reading the Touchdown section of the Thursday paper aloud listing all the high school football highlights. But, Special Olympics has always been her favorite, her Mom said.
“You have a second family,” Velinda said. Tandrea has six or seven best buddies who call each other every day. She doesn’t have just one best friend. “With Special Olympics, Tandrea has shown people that she can do what other children can do. Plus, it makes her feel like she can fit in.”
Tandrea is completely a team athlete, said Lisa Hughey, who is the volunteer director of State Fall Games. “Tandrea and her Mom Velinda have become family and I love nothing better than to sit and talk, laugh, and joke with her. She is one of the reasons I love Special Olympics so much.”
Even riding to competition is not boring. “Tandrea keeps everyone laughing and giggling throughout the whole ride,” she said.
She’s also a determined athlete who is the definition of good sportsmanship. One year Tandrea was unable to compete in swimming due to illness but she was more concerned with letting her team down than being sick.
“She was worried she had let everyone down, her team was the only thing on her mind,” said Hughey.
“She is what Special Olympics is meant to be.”
When Nicole Kendall goes out on the bocce court this weekend at State Fall Games, you can count on her top two goals to be one: win and two: entertain.
With her teammates, said her Mom Renee Moneta, Nicole will cheer on her friends while jumping up and down asking her fans at Heritage Point Park, “I did good, didn’t I?” “She’s competitive. She likes to win. But this is also a social event for her to get together and talk,” Renee said.
Competitions also give Nicole an opportunity to exercise and stay active. Not to mention to get dressed up for the Victory Dance after Opening Ceremony and at some State Games, spend the night away from home. That’s another quality Special Olympics has helped instill in Nicole, self-sufficiency.
“She absolutely loves it,” her Mom said.
Nicole’s other interests include downloading photos onto Facebook and playing the social medium’s “Words with Friends.” During eight days out of a month, she goes to Rosswood Day Center, where she does crafts, gets manicures and pedicures and sometimes travels to Edna’s in Chatworth for lunch.
As she and her family live on the border of Tennessee, she also loves Tennessee football and often teases with her three sisters, who are Georgia fans. Sometimes watching college football at her sister’s she’ll text her Mom, “My guys have to start to make good plays.” And then eventually, at the end, she’ll write, “We’ll get them next time,” her Mom said.
That’s the kind of perseverance she learned with Special Olympics. The Athlete Oath has been a part of her life ever since she was old enough to compete: “Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt,” said her Mom.
The sense of competition and confidence has been with her so long, that her Mom says she’s not sure where she would be without Special Olympics.
“I imagine had she not signed up, she would be a lot different in terms of social ease and confidence.”
Click here for photos and more information about Kennedy Shriver.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is an annual celebration of her life and a global call challenging everyone to “Play Unified to Live Unified” because Mrs. Shriver taught us that on the playing field, we forget about our differences and recognize our mutual humanity. On EKS Day, we invite you to join us in playing unified and teaching the world to live unified. We are demonstrating Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s enduring vision by calling upon athletes, families and friends to come together in a day of inclusive sport and play.
On 22 September 2012, Special Olympics and Best Buddies will commemorate the third annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day (EKS Day), bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities to participate in sport and to honor Mrs. Shriver’s inspiration, impact and indomitable spirit.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is celebrated around the world and led by the program leadership of both Special Olympics and Best Buddies in an effort to celebrate her life and impact and share her story to inspire new fans. We hope to inspire people of all ages to follow her example and commit themselves to improving the world for people with intellectual disabilities. Please join the athletes of Special Olympics and buddies of Best Buddies, the real heroes of this movement that are unifying communities and expanding opportunities around the world. Help them honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver on Saturday, 22 September.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s actions helped open the minds of all people to the gifts and talents of individuals with intellectual disabilities. She believed in their possibilities, which fuel hope in all of us to make a difference. Eunice Kennedy Shriver demonstrated an unrelenting indomitable spirit in action that one person could make a difference and change the world. Her lasting legacy must be our continued commitment to improve and transform the lives of the 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities who still live with diminished opportunities and social disrespect, and are often neglected and hidden away.
With the help of parents the Special Olympics program in Dekalb County Schools has been saved! Click here to read more!
Check out a few photos from the 2012 Masters Bowling Tournament!
Meet a Few Athletes Competing at State Masters Bowling in Warner Robins and the State Horse Show in Perry This Weekend
Horsemanship center helps owner and her horseman son Warrior Zach Singletary; Zach competes this weekend at State Horse Show in Perry
In 2000, Karen Leabo Singletary founded a therapeutic horsemanship center named Hands & Hearts for Horses, Inc in her home city Thomasville. Karen had a vision of helping others with the benefits of therapeutic riding; she never dreamed that she would need the center for her own child.
Karen got married and had two beautiful young sons. Her oldest son, Zachery, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at just 5 years old. Zach had surgery at Shands Hospital, underwent many rounds of chemotherapy, and the results of all of this treatment sent him back into the stage of an infant. Zach could not walk or talk, he could only scream. Karen knew that he needed a horse! On his first ride, he had to ride double with his Mom because he was unable to sit alone. After a few weeks, he was riding with the aid of volunteers. Before anyone knew it he was riding alone, talking, walking and even running! At Hands & Hearts he is known as Warrior Zach because of his courage and strength to kick cancer! Today he is riding independently and continues his weekly therapeutic horsemanship lessons at Hands & Hearts for Horses. He fought through this battle and remained on grade level with his classmates. Zach will compete in Special Olympics Horse Show in three events.
Masters Bowler aims to prove to himself that if you work hard, you can always succeed
Shane Jacobs started participating in Special Olympics when he moved to Moultrie, Georgia in middle school. The first sport he competed in was floor hockey, but since then he has also competed in bocce, volley ball, bike riding and bowling. He enjoys participating in Special Olympics because he feels it is a great way to test his physical abilities. Also, Shane is a very competitive person and Special Olympics has taught him that he doesn’t always have to win in order to have a good time. He is looking forward to competing in Masters Bowling this year because he wants to prove to himself that if you practice and work hard at something you can always succeed. Shane will be participating in the Masters Bowling tournament that is being held on August 24-26 in Warner Robins, Georgia.
Twenty-year athlete Dwayne Evans gives it his all at Masters Bowling this weekend in Warner Robins
Dwayne Evans is from Coweta County and has competed in Special Olympics for almost twenty years. He started competing in elementary and has competed ever since. Dwayne has competed in several different events including Track and Field, Bowling, Power Lifting, and Tennis. Dwayne currently competes in Bowling at local and state levels, Power Lifting at state level, and Track and Field at the local level.
Dwayne stated that one of the best parts about Special Olympics is getting to meet new people and making new friends. He also said that he enjoys traveling and staying at different places around Georgia as part of the Special Olympics. Dwayne said his greatest memory of Special Olympics is from 2005 when he was able to represent Georgia in bowling while attending the National Games when they were held in Iowa.
Dwayne has attended the Rutledge Center for the past five years. He currently works on the lawn crew and completes various contract jobs for businesses in the community. Dwayne is excited to be competing in the upcoming Masters Bowling August 24-26 in Warner Robins, Georgia.
Horse provides brighter days for State Horse Show Competitor Athlete Shelby Burns
Shelby Burns has loved horses for as long as she can remember. In May of 2007, one of her teachers contacted SOGA about allowing her to begin horseback riding, as a way to improve her outlook on life and brighten her days. She was bright eyed and happy to get to ride her first pony, a little Connemara mare named White Sugar. They did well together. Shelby gained some strength and her mother reported that on horseback riding days she would always get up without complaining. Horses had given Shelby a reason to feel good!
It wasn’t long and Shelby had acquired the skills to ride independently, even learning to canter on a bigger horse, named Bogie. It was on Bogie that Shelby made her first appearance on the Special Olympics Horse Show scene.
Shelby continues to ride, when her health permits. She will be 15 this year and plans to attend the State Horse Show. She will be riding a new horse this August named Honey. Shelby rides English and plans to compete in Dressage, Showmanship and Drill Team.
Check out this story about one of our long time athletes in Effingham County:
Michael Holton Jr started riding at Heroes on Horseback in South Carolina when he was 8 years old. (He’s now 18 years old and a senior at South Effingham High School.) But because we were Georgia residents, he was not allowed to participate in the Equestrian Special Olympics in South Carolina. When Bonnie Gentry opened Faith Equestrian in 2006, we started riding there. Michael’s first year at Equestrian Special Olympics was in 2007. He was hooked! He loves the competition and he enjoys the attention. Now we look forward every year to this competition. This year he has had lessons 3 times a week since June. He is working really hard because he loves a gold medal!
Michael got to ride with the mounted patrol officers during the opening ceremony in 2010. This was a really big highlight for him.
Michael is like most teenage boys. He likes music, dancing, computers, and video games. And this summer he has had several surfing lessons which he really loves.
There have been several articles written about Faith Equestrian in local newspapers and magazines where Michael was talked about. And news stations have come to Faith Equestrian and they have shown Michael riding on the t.v. Because of this, Michael likes to think of himself as a local celebrity. He definitely loves the attention!
Thanks campers, youth and counselors for a GREAT 2012 Camp Inspire!
Check out Special Olympics newest PSA- Special Olympics has changed Susie Doyen’s life in big ways. She’s gone from very shy and uncertain to an outgoing public speaker who’s surprising everyone who knows her. Follow the link to watch Susie’s story.
Horse Show athlete, Zachery Singletary
In 2000 Karen Leabo Singletary graduated from college, returned to her home of Thomasville, Georgia and founded a therapeutic horsemanship center named Hands & Hearts for Horses, Inc. Karen had a vision of helping others with the benefits of therapeutic riding; she never dreamed that she would need the center for her own child.
Karen got married and had two beautiful young sons. Her oldest son, Zachery, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at just 5 years of age. Zach had surgery at Shands Hospital, underwent many rounds of chemotherapy, and the results of all of this treatment sent him back into the stage of an infant. Zach could not walk or talk, he could only scream. Karen knew that he needed a horse! On his first ride, he had to ride double with his Mom because he was unable to sit alone. After a few weeks, he was riding with the aid of volunteers. Before anyone knew it he was riding alone, talking, walking and even running! At Hands & Hearts he is known as Warrior Zach because of his courage and strength to kick cancer! Today he is riding independently and continues his weekly therapeutic horsemanship lessons at Hands & Hearts for Horses. He fought through this battle and remained on grade level with his classmates. Zach will compete in Special Olympics Horse Show in three events. Best of luck Warrior Zach!
Life in the Shadows
Take a minute to watch this video Life in the Shadows: This 9-minute film tells the story of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s pioneering work to help people with intellectual disabilities. At that time, this population was most often condemned to institutions that offered little education; instead they found mostly isolation and despair. “Life in the Shadows” was produced by four-time Academy Award-winner Charles Guggenheim and narrated by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. NOTE: The film was made in 1999 and includes some outdated language.
Special Olympics Georgia received an $80,000 grant from the UPS Foundation on June 15th, presenting the check to SOGA CEO Georgia Milton-Sheats is Bryan Brum of UPS , Bryan also serves on the SOGA Board of Directors. Thank you UPS!
Cherokee County Special Olympics Athlete Katelyn Eaton attended the Cherokee County Friends Formal. The theme of the formal was “The Sweetest Things”, it was held on April 28th at the Cherokee County Recreation Center! Katelyn is 20 years old, attends Cherokee High School, and has received awards for being the only special needs student at her school to ever letter and also the only student competing from Cherokee High at the Special Olympic State Games. Katelyn participates in swimming and bowling. She has been a member of the swim team for four years and loves competing! Below Katelyn is pictured with her date for the Spring Formal Evan Morriss.
Summer Games Athlete Highlights:
State Summer Games SOGA Athlete Sadie Wolfe: Special Olympics athlete Sadie Wolfe, who has autism, takes general or “normal” education classes at Newnan High School in Coweta County and hadn’t found the sense of belonging until she was introduced to Special Olympics, said her mother Barbara. Without being in special education classes, Sadie didn’t have access to the same information and didn’t know too much about Special Olympics until she was introduced to the program by teacher and Special Olympics Local Coordinator Kelly Abercrombie. This weekend, Sadie, 15, will put her training to the test and swim at Aquatics at Woodruff P.E. Center at Emory University.
State Summer Games SOGA Athlete Highlight: After losing 15 pounds and practicing volleyball every Tuesday, Henry County athlete Marnie Hornsby is definitely prepared for Special Olympics Georgia’s State Summer Games this weekend at Emory University. Much of the prep work is mental, she said. “I block out everybody — everybody– it’s just me and that ball,” she said Monday. Being able to compete in sports at all is something that is grateful to Special Olympics. Plus, she’s met a lot of new people and made friends. “I’ve really come around since I’ve joined.”
Special Olympics World Games holds the next sport challenge for Marnie: Alpine Skiing. “I think the competition will be tougher but I’m excited,” she said.
State Summer Games SOGA Athlete Highlight: Jimpson Rosser is a young man who has been involved with the program for more than 12 years. Since he was old enough to compete, he has not missed a local event in his whole Special Olympics career.
This year at Emory University he is competing in track and field. He will compete in 100 meter dash and the running long jump. Aside from his athletic talent, Jimpson is also an accomplished musician, as a vocalist and keyboardist. He has performed at many events throughout his community as well as his church. He even played for the Chick-Fil-A Lemon-aid Fundraiser and the opening ceremonies of the local Coweta County Bowling Championships.
State Summer Games SOGA Athlete Highlight: Coweta County Special Olympics Athlete Montana Bush was named Special Olympics Georgia’s Female Athlete of the Year. She has competed at the state level in swimming, and cycling. Before competing at the state level in cycling Montana could not even ride a bike, but with courage and hard practice she went on to earn her spot at state games. Aside from sports, Tana was also named second runner up at the Miss Indian Princess Pageant. Montana will be participating in aquatics at State Summer Games at Emory her events are the 25m back stroke, 50m freestyle, and the 4 by 25m free relay! Come out and cheer Tana on!
Coweta County Special Olympics Athlete Montana Jones was named Special Olympics Georgia’s Female Athlete of the Year. She has competed at the state level in swimming, and cycling. Before competing at the state level in cycling Montana could not even ride a bike, but with courage and hard practice she went on to earn her spot at state games. Aside from sports, Tana was also named second runner up at the Miss Indian Princess Pageant. By winning this title, she was allowed to name a charity of choice and chose Coweta County Special Olympics as the benefactor. Congrantulations Montana, on being the Female Athlete of the Year!
This past weekend at the Downunder Horsemanship Walkabout Tour the Central Georgia Ranch Horse Association raised $4,800 for Special Olympics Georgia through The Ritchie Ball Charity Toss, the event was a huge success! Thank you CGRHA
BEST COUSINS MAKE BEST BUDDIES!
It was an exciting weekend in Washington, DC when Scott Heyman joined his cousin, Allison Gordon, for the BEST BUDDIES BIKE CHALLENGE. They participated in the 100K bike ride, which started in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, October 22.
Scott Heyman is a healthy athlete with a developmental disability called Fragile X Syndrome. He lives with his two best friends, Russell and Paul, with support from ILP, a division of Atlanta’s JF&CS Independent Living Program of Atlanta.
This summer, Scott’s cousin, Allison Gordon, a pre-med graduate of Vanderbilt University, called to see if he would like to train with her for the upcoming Best Buddies Bike Challenge in Washington, DC. The training would involve multiple bike rides to build endurance for a 100K event. Scott enjoys riding his bike every Friday to join his family for Shabbat dinner, and he takes weekly spin classes at LA Fitness. However, he had never trained for the distance that this race offered. Scott accepted the challenge, and would train for the event with his cousin Allison, joined by his job coach, Tom Shibley, of Supported Employment Services, who is an avid rider as well.
By October, Scott and Allison were ready to take on the challenge. Scott and his parents, Gail & Lyons Heyman of Marietta, arrived in DC a day early so that Scott could be fitted for his bike. The experience started off with the warm welcome by two national bike champions, Jeff Shoemake and Nathan Winkleman, as they put on Scott’s clip-on bike pedals and encouraged Scott how to stay strong for the next day ride.
That Friday evening, Scott and his family joined the other members of Team Nashville for a kick-off for a carb loaded meal at a friend’s home in DC.
At 6 a.m. the next morning, Scott headed to the Washington Monument to join the 1,400 other participants for breakfast under the tent. There was a pep talk at the start line with Anthony Shriver, founder of Best Buddies International. Maria Shriver and many other members of the Kennedy family came in support of the ride. Even before the sun came up, Scott was cued up with the other bikers for the race. With his helmet on, his race jersey number 101 on his back, Scott heard the final blow of the whistle. He looked over at Allison and off they went!
The traffic was stopped for the bikers at the mall and all around DC. Starting at the Washington Monument, the route followed the Potomac River up into Maryland. Streets were closed, and there was a police escort on the Beltway. Every 15 miles there was a rest stop with cheers, water and nutrients for the bikers.
The race continued for many hours, and near 1 p.m., Scott and Allison could be seen approaching the finish line. It was so exciting! The loud noise of the cow bells and cheers were alarming, but it did not slow them down. Scott stood up on his bike and stepped into super drive with an awesome finish. He went through the finish line and kept on peddling, never looking back. It took him a few moments to turn around to get yet another round of applause.
After the race, Allison took off her helmet, high fived her Best Buddy, and then calmed down her cousin’s nerves by massaging his knee. Allison’s smooth words of encouragement kept Scott’s mind focused on the challenge during the long race. The whole time they joked with each other, sang Camp Barney songs, and had a great time.
After the race, when speaking with Scott’s brother, Jared, and sister, Carly, on the phone, he was asked “Scott, how did you do it?” His answer was simple, “I got on my bike, and then got off”.
Scott is an inspiration to many. He has dozens of new Facebook friends, and enjoys sharing pictures and stories of the BEST BUDDIES BIKE CHALLENGE. Scott is a hero for taking on this awesome challenge and going beyond expectations.
MACON ATHLETE SPEAKS TO GEORGIA ASSOCIATION OF THE MOOSE
Before heading to her sailing competition at Lake Tobesofkee, athlete Nandi Isaac spoke to more than 200 Moose members at its State Convention in Macon Saturday, Sept. 24. Nandi talked about her sports and explained that Special Olympics has taught her many skills and she wants to help others just like her.
“When I first started bowling, I tried my hardest and aimed for the gold! I am now 28 years old. Now I compete in many sports like bowling, bocce, softball and sailing. When I try hard and meet my goal, it feels good,” she said.
Nandi moved out of her parent’s home a few years ago and lives independently with support. “Special Olympics gave me strength, courage and most of all confidence. I now own a small business called SCANwithNAN,” she said. She said support counts. It helps her and peers to attend State Games. “That helps my friends learn team work and new skills. It makes them a part of their community.”
Four staff members recently traveled down to the island of St. Lucia to train their coaches and athletes in order for them to compete in the State Fall Games this October in Dalton, GA. Click here to read about the training experience.
DUCK DERBY RESULTS
Here is a list of the lucky duck winners in today’s Duck Derby at Six Flags White Water:
First place: Tom Adrien won a Mandalay Bay Resort Package including a 3-night stay at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, 2 tickets to Disney’s The Lion King, 2 tickets to Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort, $100 off a Mandalay Bay Beach Cabana, and $150 dining credit to any one of Mandalay Bay’s 15 restaurants.
Second place: Kathy McCluskey won a $300 reward gift card for Marriott Hotels, valid until November 17, 2011
Third place: Andrea Walker won a $250 Macy’s gift card
Fourth place: Joyce Ferris won a $250 gift card redeemable for any product or service at Kauffman Tire
Fifth place: Highwoods Properties
A $80,000 UPS check presentation is made by
Joe Ruiz, Corporate Contributions Manager, and
Bryan Brum, Attorney for UPS to
SOGA CEO Georgia Milton-Sheats to contribute
to long-term support of the program.