elenaandrhyanED    elenaandwvfriends
Dekalb County Athlete Helps Kick Start West Virginia Gymnastics Program for Athletes With and Without Intellectual Disabilities

Guest post by: Linda Weaver April 22, 2014
Athlete Elena Weaver performed in West Virginia in a recent rhythmic gymnastics meet.  Nothing unusual about that except that this was not a Special Olympic event and Elena’s partner, Rhyan Bailey, does not have intellectual or physical disabilities.  They performed this routine to demonstrate how two people (one with and one without disabilities) can come together as friends who can help each other to their very best.

Orion Rhythmic Gymnastics is a  new rhythmic gymnastics program that has made a commitment to actively work to create a program for all girls in their community with special needs.  Elena will be their model of a person who has successfully competed and benefited from active participation in rhythmic gymnastics through Special Olympics and with other gymnasts who have no disabilities.

The program kicked off their meet by honoring the “3 2 1 – National Downs Syndrome Awareness Day”.  Elena has several friends with Downs so this is very close to her heart.

The closing routine – “Nothing I Can’t Do” – was performed by Elena and Rhyan.  Alone Elena has had great success – but when friends come along beside her to help, then there truly is “Nothing They Can’t Do.”

If you follow the pictures of the progression of the routine you will see that in the beginning Elena starts the routine alone – with Rhyan in the background.  She’s doing well, but it keeps getting harder.  Elena then goes off by herself and Rhyan begins doing her much more complex routine.  Then they come together and are performing the same routine.  They achieve more and more together … as it should be.

The gymnasts at Orion Rhythmic Gymnastics are committed to coming along side girls with special needs and helping them achieve all that is in their hearts.

April’s Athlete of the Month: Christopher “Buck” Dunson

Posted by: Wendy Bigham April 3, 2014
You could easily find Christopher “Buck” Dunson leading his Heard County teammates in stretches before competitions. He motivates his team and encourages others, says the county’s local coordinator Cynthia Spearman.

“Everybody knows Buck. If you don’t, you are missing a treat,” Cynthia said. “He is an enthusiastic athlete who is well known at Heard High School.”

Buck was recently named Loco Rio’s Player of the Week in the Herald Citizen.

At Winter Games, Buck won first place in his division at the basketball skills competition scoring 14 points in perimeter shooting, 21 points in rebounding, and 26 points in the dribbling obstacle course; which totaled 61 points. We look forward to seeing you play again, Buck! Congratulations to Buck for being April’s Athlete of the Month.

Congratulations to GEICO for a Successful 1-Mile Walk March 15th in support of Special Olympics Georgia Athletes

geicowalk2_2014         geicowalk2014
For 31 years, GEICO has been a tremendous friend and supporter of Special Olympics Georgia.  On March 15th, GEICO hosted a 1-Mile Walk on their Macon campus to benefit Special Olympics Georgia.  Thank you GEICO for continuing to believe in our athletes and help make their dreams come true!

Special Olympics Georgia ‘s CEO Georgia Sheats recognizes UPS employee and SOGA’s Board Chairman Bryan Brum for the ongoing support from UPS of the organization.

SOGA’s March Volunteer of the Month: John Clouse
John Clouse wasn’t able to see his younger brother, who was a Special Olympics athlete, compete at 1991′s State Summer Games. When he died soon after, John decided to volunteer with Special Olympics Georgia.

He loads equipment and anything else that is very heavy in hopes of helping make the games a success. John also has an older brother who is still living and also competed.

He shows up ready to work and always stays late until the work is done. In addition to volunteering at every State Summer and Winter Games, he also helped out at the 1999 World Games in Raleigh, NC while he was there for work.

When asked what his favorite thing is about Special Olympics, he said: “The athletes. They bring a smile to my face and they inspire me to work hard to do my best in everything I do.”

Congratulations John on being named the March Volunteer of the Month!

SOGA’s March Athlete of the Month: Powerlifting Record-Breaker Louis Maxwell
SOGA is proud to name Louis Maxwell, of the Kay Center in Fort Valley, as March’s Athlete of the Month.

He recently lifted a new record of 710 pounds in the deadlift at USA Powerlifting Power Partners in Tennessee.

Even at the young age of 24, Louis has competed in Special Olympics for 12 years in 79 events in various sports. However, powerlifting is the sport in which he is most recognized. At January’s Southeast Powerlifting Competition, Louis won the gold in all 3 of his events: benchpress, squat, and deadlift.

Outside of competitions, Louis is a SOGA global messenger and has spoken to community groups about how Special Olympics has shaped his life. Louis is a hard worker and a serious competitor. Through the Kay Center, Louis works with their landscaping service and he is part of the local Aktion Club.

Congratulations Louis on being named the March Athlete of the Month!

February’s Athlete of the Month: John Holt
Cordele Athlete John Holt loves to ride his bike every day and truly “goes the distance.” It’s not always the casual ride around town but John will often go on 20-mile rides. He has competed in cycling for Special Olympics Georgia since he was a high school student.

Last June, John participated in Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG). There, John rode his bike from Cordele, located off I-75 below Perry, to St. Mary’s, which is located south of Brunswick. The long ride was not easy!

John did not feel he could not make it through the ride sometimes. Still, with the experiences that he had already in the South Georgia humidity and his will to never quit, he gained the momentum he needed to finish the longest bike ride of his life.

John plans to return to BRAG this year and hopes to make BRAG an annual event for himself. We’re proud of you John. Good luck at the next ride!

Augusta Husband and Wife Take Home the Gold as Individuals

Wise folks have said that, like a team, for a couple to be strong each individual should be solid and complete. That is the story of athletes and husband and wife Jessalyn and Zach Gilmore who both brought home the gold in individual basketball skills Jan. 25 at State Indoor Winter Games in Marietta.

Jessalyn received her gold first. “As soon as we realized Jessalyn won the gold, myself and some of the Savannah folks sitting with us started kidding Zach that he had to win gold or else Jessalyn would never let him hear the end of it. Good thing he was up to the task!” said their coach Kevin Enright.

The married couple have competed with Augusta Stars for about three years. In bowling and bocce, they always play on the same team.

 The Gilmores met at the 2002 Valentines’ Dance had dated a year when Zach asked Jessalyn’s Dad over a family dinner in Savannah if he could marry her. They had to wait while her Dad Mark answered. Then on May 3, 2008, the couple was married in front of 200 guests at New Life Baptist Church. After a move to Waynesboro, Jessalyn began working for Pineland Bakery. Zach works with her Dad on the farm. They have four dogs, four cats and one horse. They live close to Jessalyn’s parents in the country and divide their time between his grandparent’s home in Augusta, which is a very active home with holiday events, Jessalyn’s Mom SuAnne Phillips said. They also spend quiet time with SuAnne and  Mark on the Ogeechee River while still bowling every Thursday with the Exceptional Bowlers.

Definitely a full and busy life for the couple and as individuals. Congrats on winning the gold in individual basketball skills you two!

Athletes and Coaches: Look for The Game 92.9 at State Winter Games Olympic Town Saturday

Check out The Game 92.9′s Street Team  prize games, promotional giveaways and a photo station at 11 a.m. Saturday at Olympic Town inside Marietta Middle School.

Fayette County Special Olympics Georgia Athlete Erin Hoffman was interviewed about her upcoming basketball competition this weekend on “GAME TIME” by Carl Dukes and Kordell Stewart Wednesday. Check out photos here.  Thanks to Carl and Kordell for being such gracious hosts to SOGA. Stay tuned for a video of the interview!

Special Olympics Georgia is thrilled to partner with The Game 92.9 for Winter Games and more events to come!

Sandy Springs Check Presentation

Thank you Marlow’s Tavern for once again including Special Olympics Georgia as part of the kick-off to the opening of a new Tavern – the Sandy Springs location.  Thank you Marlow’s Tavern customers for your continued generosity in supporting the athletes.  Pictured at the check presentation are:  Andy Bauman, Sandy Springs City Council District 6; John Metz, executive chef and co-founder of Marlow’s Tavern; John Paulson, Sandy Springs City Council District 1; Susan Skolnick, Director of Development and Major Gifts at Special Olympics Georgia; Alan Palmieri, market partner at Marlow’s Tavern; Tom Mahaffey, president of Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce; Keith Grant, general manager at Marlow’s Tavern Sandy Springs.

State Winter Games in Cobb County set for this weekend

Atlanta (Jan.21) – Athletes from all over Georgia will compete in Special Olympics Georgia’s State Indoor Winter Games at various venues in Cobb County this weekend.

Approximately 3,000 participants – including athletes, coaches and unified partners — from all over Georgia will compete Jan. 24-26 at various locations in Cobb County. Athletes will compete in basketball, bowling, floor hockey, gymnastics, powerlifting, and roller skating. Southeast Powerlifting is also being held during the weekend at the Courtyard/Marriott Hotel. The games are free and open to the public.

The Games’ Opening Ceremony is at 7:30 p.m. at Cobb Civic Center in Marietta. The Opening Ceremony Grand Marshals are Michael Haynes, former wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons and Terrance Trammell, two-time Olympic Track and Field silver medalist.

Competitions will continue Saturday and Sunday at various locations, including All Tournaments Players Park, Smyrna Community Center, Marietta Middle School, and the Cobb County Civic Center. Click here for a full schedule of competitions or visit http://www.specialolympicsga.org/become-an-athlete/competition-schedule/state-indoor-winter-games/.

“Be a Fan” this month at Publix Supermarkets

Please shop at your local Publix this month and make a donation at the check out register by purchasing a paper torch icon and support the athletes of Special Olympics Georgia, thank you! Be a Fan at Publix!

katy at Publix poster 2014 (600x800)

Publix & P&G partner up for Special Olympics Georgia athletes!
Publix, Procter & Gamble, and Special Olympics have partnered together for 34 years to help people with intellectual disabilities achieve their dreams. Here’s how you can help…
•On Sunday, December 29, 2013, clip the P&G brandSAVER™ coupons featuring Special Olympics in your local newspaper.
•Support Special Olympics while you shop at Publix by purchasing your favorite P&G products like Charmin, Pantene, and Downey and many other well-known brands during the month of January.
•And while you’re at Publix January 2 – 22, show you’re a fan of Special Olympics by purchasing your very own paper torch at the check-out register for $1, $3, $5 or $10 to support Special Olympics and your local athletes!
•This year’s torches include $12.50 in coupons on select Procter and Gamble products. These coupons are good above and beyond the brandSAVER ™ coupons, so purchase a torch and you’ll find out just how rewarding it is to “Be a fan”!
Click here to view the press release!

Cobb County Team to Compete at State Winter Games is More Like a Family


When a team has competed as a unit for eight years, the athletes and their families develop an irreplaceable bond. “It’s become a family of athletes and coaches,” said Carol Owmby, mom to athlete Mariah in Cobb County.
After weekly basketball practices and scrimmages, Mariah’s team is ready to join nearly 2,000 athletes competing in six sports January 24-26 at various locations in Cobb County. The sports are basketball, bowling, floor hockey, gymnastics, powerlifting and roller skating. Southeast Powerlifting will also be held the weekend of Winter Games, bringing more southern states to compete in Cobb County. Come cheer on Mariah’s team and all of the athletes in just a few weeks. Click here for a Winter Games schedule and map of competition venues.


Lisa Eaton named Special Olympics Georgia Female Athlete of the Year, Honored by her Hometown

At State Horse Show in October, Lisa Eaton was named Female Athlete of the Year. Recently she was honored by the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners for her accomplishments. Read the full article released by the Rockdale Citizen here. Congratulations Lisa!

Hall County to host fall Special Olympics Games

On December 4th, a press conference was held in Hall County highlighting the details of State Fall Games that will be held in Gainesville in 2014. Read the full article here.


Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run receives excellence award
ed christian 2

Special Olympics Georgia recently received the award Level of Excellence, Ruby Award, given by Special Olympics International to the SOGA LETR program. This is the first time Georgia’s Torch Run program has received the prestigious award for outstanding level of performance in raising $759,260. The award was presented at the Torch Run conference in Orlando. Ed Christian of the Georgia Torch Run’s Executive Council is pictured above receiving the award.



Congratulations Dunwoody Country Club for a record-setting Charity Event Weekend, and thank you for once again letting SOGA be a part of your family and Tradition of Giving!  Pictured at the wrap-up luncheon on November 20th are Debbie Young, Event Co-Chair; Susan Skolnick, SOGA Director of Development and Major Gifts; Shirley Franklin, Event Co-Chair; Georgia Milton-Sheats, SOGA CEO; and Jon Knobbe, Dunwoody Country Club COO/General Manager

2014 State Fall Games Heading to Gainesville  next October!

Special Olympics Georgia plans a state competition in Hall County, a boost in area’s economy

WHAT:     Representatives of Special Olympics Georgia and Hall County officials will announce a Special Olympics state competition to be held October 10-12, 2014 in the area. That weekend Hall County will also host Special Olympics Georgia’s State Horse Show for the second consecutive year at Chicopee Agriculture Center. Both games, where nearly 1,400 athletes and coaches will travel across the state to attend, is expected to benefit the area’s economic development; with a boost for retailers and hoteliers.

Georgia Milton-Sheats, Special Olympics Georgia CEO
Athlete of Hall County
Wes Perry, Sales Manager of Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors’
Bureau Representative of the Hall County Board of Commissioners

WHEN:     11 a.m. Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WHERE:   North Hall Park, Hall County Parks and Leisure Services, 4175 Nopone Road, Gainesville, GA 30506.


November Athlete of the Month: Austin Beal

Austin Beal of Paulding County won the gold medal in all three of his events in October’s State Horse Show.

Even though he has been riding since 2006, this was Austin’s first time competing in Western Riding yet he was still able to bring home the gold!

More recognition came for Austin when he was recently featured on the Today Show. He was selected by his high school’s football coach to be an honorary member of the team. He received a team jersey, ate the pre-game meal with the team, rode the team’s bus and stood with them on the field for the entire game.

Outside of Special Olympics and sports, Austin is a huge Georgia Bulldogs fan and a big-time dancer.

Congrats Austin on being named Special Olympics Georgia’s athlete of the month!

Special Olympics Georgia Launches a New Film Documentary, “The Love of the Games”; Set to Air on Television Statewide

  ATLANTA (Nov. 7)  Special Olympics Georgia announced today the new documentary film, “The Love of the Games” will air beginning on Saturday, December 14th  on a statewide network of Georgia’s leading television stations.

The 30-minute film offers compelling and inspirational insights to the benefits that Special Olympics Georgia has on athletes, their families, volunteers, and on society.

“Special Olympics has been a huge part of our lives and it’s changed our family,” says Jeff, parent of athlete Josh. “People just accept each other for who they are.” An enthusiastic Josh sums up his success by noting, “If you just try hard, I know you can do it.” Given that Josh spoke his first words at age eight, his voice illustrates the journey behind every athlete, each with his or her own courageous story.

The TV program will reveal another winner within the Special Olympics State Games: employees of corporations dedicated to the communities in which they serve. UPS, Publix and Autotrader.com generously contribute money, manpower, and logistical expertise, but are quick to point out the rewards run both ways. “The gift that these athletes give is better than anything you can unwrap,” states UPS Volunteer Coordinator Christy Davis.

The documentary was directed and produced by Dan Johnson, a 24-time Emmy Award winning Atlanta filmmaker and will air on the following stations:

  • Atlanta            WAGA-TV Fox5                   December 14  5:30PM
  • Albany             WALB-TV News 10              December 14  7:30PM
  • Augusta           WJBF-TV  News Channel 6   December 14  7:30PM
  • Columbus         WRBL-TV News 3               December 14  6:30PM
  • Savannah         WTOC-TV 11                     December 14  7:30PM
  • Macon              WMAZ-TV 13                      December 28 12:30PM

Special Olympics Georgia Mission
The mission of Special Olympics Georgia is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for 25,878 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Special Olympics Georgia launches new film documentary, “The Love of the Games”

(Oct. 31) Special Olympics Georgia announced today the new documentary film, “The Love of the Games” will  air  Saturday, December 14th at 5:30 p.m. on Fox 5. The film offers compelling and inspirational insights to the benefits that Special Olympics Georgia has on athletes, their families, volunteers, and on society.

Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and competition to 25,878 athletes in Georgia, providing lifelong skills.

“Special Olympics has been a huge part of our lives and it’s changed our family,” says Jeff Jansma, parent of athlete Josh. “People just accept each other for who they are.” An enthusiastic Josh sums up his success by noting, “If you just try hard, I know you can do it.” Given that Josh spoke his first words at age eight, his voice illustrates the journey behind every athlete, each with his or her own courageous story.

The TV program will reveal another winner within the Special Olympics State Games: employees of corporations dedicated to the communities in which they serve. UPS, Publix and Autotrader.com generously contribute money, manpower, and logistical expertise, but are quick to point out the rewards run both ways. “The gift that these athletes give is better than anything you can unwrap,” states UPS Volunteer Coordinator Christy Davis.

The documentary was directed and produced by Dan Johnson, a 24-Emmy Award winning Atlanta filmmaker.

Special Olympics Georgia Mission
The mission of Special Olympics Georgia is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. For more information, visit www.specialolympicsga.org

Tying up Lose Ends Before State Horse Show in Gainesville This Weekend

Former professional equestrian Kathryn Junod has taken on 16 athletes from Forsyth County. For  the last three months has taught them the fundamentals of horse riding, this last week has been a time for the athletes to prepare themselves and the athletes for competition.

That means cleaning stalls, tack cleaning and brushing their horses and even braiding manes at Barefoot Ranch. Four of the ranch’s horses have already selected which athletes they would like to be paired up with and bonds of trust have been formed.

She says all the athletes are ready for competition this weekend at Chicopee Woods in Gainesville. Competitions include Western riding, dressage, equitation and trail riding. Click here for the official State Horse Show page.

First time Gainesville Athlete Makes Equestrian Debut at State Horse Show and Taps Into


First Time Equestrian Special Olympics Athlete Also Discovers Gift

When Carson Moody’s horse Bo lost one of his shoe’s, she decided it wasn’t worth the risk of him walking on a bare hoof.

“She was very concerned because she thought Bo hurt his leg,” said her Mom Lee Ann Moody of her daughter who is going to compete this weekend (Oct. 11-13) in the State Horse Show at Chicopee Woods in Gainesville.

Carson’s sensitivity to people’s feelings also applies to her horse.  It’s really important that Carson stays sure of what she wants the horse to do or he’ll do what he likes. She really has to listen to the horse, her Mom said. Working with the horses and being in Special Olympics this first year has really helped Carson, 15, step out of her comfort zone. She and her teammates have been riding horses at Barefoot Ranch in Gainesville for the last three months.

“She does what she can to help,” Lee Ann said. She pays attention to everyone and when a couple of other athletes seem uncomfortable with the horses, she sometimes will help lead the horse to help the other athlete feel a little more safe.

“It’s very heart warming and humbling to see the kids in their own environment with their friends and where they can be themselves,” she said.

97.1 ‘The River’ interviews Special Olympics Georgia Board Member-Mike Wolf and CEO-Georgia Milton-Sheats

On September 29th, 97.1 ‘The River’ interviewed both Mike Wolf, Special Olympics Georgia board member, and Georgia Milton-Sheats, Special Olympics Georgia CEO, on the mission of SOGA and upcoming events that SOGA will be hosting. Listen to the interview here: http://www.971theriver.com/Player/102135111/

Congratulations to Bobbie Jo Williams, October’s Athlete of the Month

Bobbie Jo Williams began competing as a Special Olympics Georgia athlete in 2003 at the age of 20 with one of our longest standing delegations, Just People.

She has been characterized as a strong leader and a great teammate.

Bobbie Jo has found success in many areas of her life. Most recently, she and her team were undefeated and won the gold medal in bocce at the Douglasville Invitational. She will  compete again in bocce at State Fall Games next weekend.

In addition to her success on the bocce court, Bobbie Jo is also in her second term as president of the Aktion Club in Lilburn. The Aktion Club is an extension of the Kiwanis Club. Bobbie Jo coordinates all the meetings  and helps organize the club’s service projects. As if competing as a Special Olympics athlete and serving as president for the Aktion Club wasn’t enough, Bobbie Jo also works for Just People as a receptionist  and a cashier at its thrift store.

Gwinnett County Couple Tackle Bocce Together at State Fall Games

Married couple Rudolpha and Michael Barron are competing on the same four-person bocce team this year for the first time. Rudolpha’s Mom and another athlete’s parent Peggy Lee are the other two team members on their unified bocce team at State Fall Games Oct. 11-13.

A unified team is made up of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. The Gwinnett County bocce team will compete at the Special Olympics Georgia competition at Heritage Point Park. Nearly 1,200 athletes from around the state are expected to attend.

This weekend wraps up weeks of the married couple of six years practicing in their large front yard. They live with Rudolpha’s (Richards) Mom in the Decatur, Ga area.

After growing up on St. Thomas Island and competing in Special Olympics there, the program continued to be a big part of Rudolpha’s life leading up to this weekend of playing bocce side by side with her husband. The two met 10 years ago at a Special Olympics practice where both were playing with Dekalb County. Rudolpha was playing bocce and Michael was playing softball. Rudolpha works at her Mom’s business and volunteers at Special Olympics Georgia state office as well as a public speaker, known as a Global Messenger. Michael took the weekend off from work at Wal-Mart specifically for competition and meeting up with old friends.

This is Rudolpha’s sixth year playing bocce and Michael’s first. Off and on throughout dinner, you might hear the two talking bocce strategy, which boils down to one object: score and win.

Last year, she learned a valuable lesson in watching teammates playing: role the ball to the center of the court. The bocce trio has been practicing that move quite a bit at home.
And, Rudolpha is team captain, based on her experience. He takes it well, she says. “I tell him to make sure to get it close to the palina so we can score and win!” Rudolpha says.

tylerhugheyTyler Hughey: Taking Confidence From Special Olympics to Speaking  to You Tube to This Weekend’s State Fall Games

On a Friday night, you might find Tyler Hughey of Dalton taking a break from practice or school activities to play card games with friends at The Battlegrounds Games and Movies in front of a handycam.

Tyler films their games and funny commentary on his self-named “baby giraffe,” a small tripod with a touchscreen camera.  He attributes the confidence to speak in front of others to the skills he’s learned through Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics made me who I am now.  I am very social and ultimately hilarious,” he said.
It all started with having to unexpectedly speak about himself at a meeting. Then he was trained as a Global Messenger, who now talks to large civic and corporate groups about his experiences with Special Olympics.

More memories and stories to share will come as he competes this weekend in bocce at State Fall Games. His Mom is the Games Volunteer and his Dad is the bocce venue director.
Unscripted is not a problem. Tyler said he tells himself before any kind of speaking engagement, “I’ve done this one before, unscripted. So I’ve made up my mind and I’m going to do this.”

In the You Tube videos, he and his friends call out strategy and talk about themselves on You Tube. Then he edits and posts the video Saturday. You can also see Tyler’s commentary when he’s playing games, adding his character analysis. His handle on YouTube is Megarexx1.

Before Megarexx1, Tyler made videos on how to make simple recipes like omelets and sloppy Joe’s, then he went on to videoing his Nintendo gaming and even a few magic tricks.

“I’ve gotten the confidence to do all kinds of things,” Tyler said.

Special Olympics: Light in Laurie Griggers Life

Special Olympics continues to light a Macon athlete’s life since the program began.

Laurie Griggers, 50, loves Special Olympics.  And the program has been a constant in the many years of moving with her family as he and the family moved many times because of her   father’s job.

First was  Tallahassee, Fl. in 1972,  where she first participated in track and field events. Next was Tampa and Florida adding bowling, basketball. Then Greenville, Mississippi where she learned floor hockey.

“Each time the family moved,there was  Special Olympics to help fill the void of friends she had to leave behind, and help meet new friends.  She loved sports and being able to compete and be a real athlete,” said her current coach Rhonda Newell.

Then family moved to Wilmington, N.C. where in addition to bowling, golf was added.  Then Bocce was a new sport being added to Olympics in 1994, and she loved that sport. She proudly displays 40 years of  medals and ribbons in her room.

This was the last of the higher impact sports, as she began having health problems.

Yet, she  continues the sports which are low impact, back in Georgia.

Laurie says she does not want to move any more.  It’s too hard to leave friends. Special Olympics has indeed been a very special “light in her life”.

Dalton High School Student Slated to Play Piano at State Fall Games
Opening Ceremony

After performing several Christmas performances and the National Anthem at a local Special Olympics competition, Yoshihiro “Yoshi” Matsuda will now perform at State Fall Games Opening Ceremony Oct. 11 in Dalton.

Yoshihiro Matsuda, a seventeen year old student at Dalton High School,  is brilliant in art, math, and especially music.

He may struggle in the areas of social skills and communication, as he has Autism Spectrum Disorder, said his music therapist Laura Ogas. “While one might not be able to maintain a two-way conversation with him, he is a true “savant” in the area of music,” she said.

Yoshihiro’s mother and father are both outstanding musicians, and have exposed he and his brother Yuji to music their entire lives.

Once Yoshi has heard a piece of music, he has the ability to repeat it back on piano. But it has to be a piece he is interested in. “He will also place my hands on the keys he wants me to play when he wants to play a different song.”

“Yoshi is a music therapist’s dream student to work with. He challenges me to be a better therapist and he teaches me something new every week,” Ogas said.


Kay Center Tigers from Georgia Team Competes at
Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational
Annual Softball Invitational Held in New Jersey, USA


Kay Center Tigers from Georgia (8/27/13) – Twenty-three teams from across the United States as well as teams from Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico competed at the 2013 Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational, including 14 athletes from Georgia, Kay Center Tigers. More than 360 athletes and 96 coaches participated in the competition, which began on Friday, August 23 and continued through medal rounds on Sunday, August 25.

Kay Center began its travels to NJ of 8/22/13 for the National Invitational Softball Tournament. The games began on 8/23 and ran through 8/25/13. The team from Georgia, located in Fort Valley, finished the tournament 5-1 in 1st Place for the Unified Division 2. Kay Center played teams from Maine, New York, Illinois, and Maryland.

The tournament was a great experience for the athletes from Georgia. They were able rekindle old friendships and meet new teams. After the games the team had time to attend a minor league baseball game and travel to Time Square in New York.

The 2013 Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational showcased teams from 14 states including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia as well as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ontario and Puerto Rico. Both traditional Special Olympics teams and Special Olympics Unified Sports teams (people with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team) took part.

The tournament featured an array of special events including an Opening Ceremony, attending a Trenton Thunder baseball game, a Fanfest area, a demonstration of the burgeoning Special Olympics sport of baseball, and special guest USA Softball Olympic Gold Medalist Amanda Freed.

The Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational, presented by Moose International, was hosted by the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, in conjunction with Special Olympics North America, in advance of the 2014 USA Games being held in Mercer County, New Jersey, June 14-21, 2014.

Results, photos, and videos from the Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational Tournament are available at www.2014specialolympics.org.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.

Cherokee County “Elite” masters level softball IMG_1476 team takes 4th at National Level

Cherokee County “Elite” masters level softball team traveled this past weekend to New Jersey to compete in the National Special Olympics Softball Invitational.  Congrats to the team as they took 4th place in the overall tournament.  Special Olympics Georgia is
proud of them!!


Congratulations to September’s Athlete of the Month:
Antron Shepherd

Antron never complains, goes above and beyond what is expected of him, and is encouraging to his fellow athletes, said his local coordinator Chandra Wesley of Albany ARC. Anytime one of his fellow athletes is down about not performing well in competition, Antron is right there to bring the athlete back up with encouraging words or simply just a pat on the back to say, “It’s OK friend, you’ll get them next time.”He is always ready with a high five for a job well done, as he sees the positive in every situation. If practice gets cancelled due to weather or any unforeseen circumstances, he sees it as just a time to rest. If his team doesn’t win, he sees it as a chance to improve the next time. Overall, Antron exhibits the essence of the spirit of Special Olympics. Congratulations Antron!

(From September’s Georgia’s Champions.)


(Editor’s Note: Reporters should contact SOGA CEO Georgia Milton-Sheats during the weekend at 404-273-9390.)

Warner Robins hosts the State Masters Bowling Tournament of Special Olympics Georgia this weekend

Atlanta Aug. 20 – The largest state bowling tournament for Special Olympics Georgia adult athletes, 22 and older, will be held in Warner Robins Aug. 23-25. Nearly 1,350 athletes and unified partners from all over Georgia will compete to be the state’s best bowler.

Bowling competitions will be held Friday through Sunday morning at Gold Cup Lanes and Robins Lanes Air Force Base. This is the fourth year the city has hosted the Special Olympics Georgia Masters Bowling Tournament for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.

Following Friday competition is Opening Ceremony at the Museum of Aviation Amphitheater. Participating celebrities include Grand Marshal and State Rep. Larry O’Neil; Miss International City Carmen Walker; and WMAZ Sports News Anchor Suzanne Lawler as Master of Ceremonies.

The games are free and open to the public. Awards will be given out throughout the weekend.

The City of Warner Robins and area businesses have been supportive to the athletes attending the tournament and in the lasting effects of positive change through sports. The tournament’s presenting sponsor is the Warner Robins Convention and Visitors Bureau. Chuck Shaheen, the city’s mayor, and City Council have also been instrumental in making the tournament possible.

If you would like to be a volunteer, contact stephen.sparks@specialolympicsga.org. For more information and a schedule, visit www.specialolympicsga.org.

Special Olympics Georgia (SOGA)
SOGA provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for nearly 25,878 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community.

 The independent social butterfly Sarah Galloway prepares for weekend of competition and a lot of fun

Athlete Sarah Galloway’s quite a sight when she’ll reach back high with the bowling ball and slings it down the lane, said her Mom Dianneangela_belcher Belcher. Sarah’s also been known to shout out, “Keep it down the middle.”

Sarah, 31, is prepared for this weekend’s State Masters Bowling Tournament. She has bowled every Tuesday for the last 10 years. The social butterfly wants to be with people, Dianne said. “She tried equestrian and placed first but since it’s not a team sport, she dropped out of it real quick.”

Sarah began in Special Olympics in middle school and would go to local  events. The best benefit has been learning independence and feeling like she can do things on her own. She learned to go places with her team and without her parents.  Last October, Sarah moved into a Developmental Disabilities Ministries Group Home. They all go together on trips to the grocery store and Wal-Mart. She has assigned tasks, such as laundry, and assists with other duties. She also  works in the kitchen at Happy Hour, a service center for people with intellectual disabilities.

But she makes time for practice and competition.  Excited about  this weekend, Dianne said, Sarah has been building her family cheering section calling her brother in Wrightsville and uncle in Hampton and telling them the competition date and time and that they need to be there.

Father son and coach and athlete relationship is not your typical one for the Bodenhamers  jason_bodenhamer

The father and son/coach and athlete relationship for John Bodenhamer and his son Jason has never been a pressured-one or one where the son was held under the microscope after games, like many other father and son duos.

“I think with me being his coach, we take it all in stride,” Bodenhamer said. “We do it to have fun and everyone tries their best.”

For the last 52 Tuesday nights, in order to create even more camaderie, John and Jason, 36, often have dinner after practice at Gold Cup Lanes. They joke at Gold Cup Lanes gives them home-court advantage this weekend at State Masters Bowling, which is one of the state games bowling venues in Warner Robins. Jason will be one of 18 athletes with Houston County Outreach, where two teams are bowling Saturday and 8 are bowling Sunday.

“I tell them – whom all he calls ‘his kids,’ that all we need to do is have fun,” John said. “That’s all that matters.”

John began coaching 27 years ago when Jason was nine years old. At 13, Jason had a stroke, which made him eligible to participate with Special Olympics at Warner Robins Middle School. Jason got involved with Special Olympics because his parents wanted to help him be around other people in a supportive community, especially after many activities end after graduating high school. His teacher at the time asked if Jason would want to bowl. Since then, he’s also competed in track and field, basketball, and basketball skills.

Bodenhamer, the Houston County Outreach local coordinator, created the program in 2000 just so people in his area with special needs would have something productive to do after finishing high school.

Even though on the serious sports side of Special Olympics, there isn’t a pressure to bowl the highest score for Jason. However, there is still a friendly rivalry between Houston and nearby Happy Hour Service Center, which also sends athletes to the state masters bowling tournament. Almost half of the Houston County Outreach athletes also work at Happy Hour Service Center yet compete with Houston. So, there’s a friendly back-and-forth with between both groups.

“All we need to do is have fun … but Happy Hour, we need to beat them,” John said.


Augusta Athlete Brings Serious Bowling to State Masters Bowling Tournament in Warner Robins August 23-25


Athlete Stan Swan’s sweet nature and clean-cut style has been a gift for him that he, in turn, gives to others.

But when it comes to bowling, he’s all business. The Augusta athlete’s current average is 119, with his high game this season of 172. This weekend, he’ll be competing in the State Masters Bowling (for athletes 22 years old and older) in Warner Robins.

“Stan and bowling are made for each other. He loves to bowl. He actually kisses his ball each time he rolls it!” said Kevin Enright, Stan’s coach over the last 18 years.

Stan started bowling the same time he was also one of the first students at the Lynndale School – a school for students with special needs –  in the 1960′s. The local chapter of America Business Club started the bowling league. Stan’s seriousness about bowling led him to a local “regular” bowling league, said his brother Richard Swan.

“I always tell people if they can understand numbers, they can have a conversation with Stan,” Enright said.  Stan, who has very limited speech, can still verbalize numbers and gesture to get his point across. That comes in handy when the Augusta Greenjacket season ticket holder  helps fans find their seats and has been known to remind some of them that their seats aren’t in the 100 section but instead, upstairs to section 400, said his brother Richard Swan. Stan’s a treasure to the August Greenjackets team, according to an article a few years ago in the Augusta Chronicle, and is the only fan to have his name painted in bold lettering. His his seat is located in the second-row box seat behind home plate.

Though it’s more important to Stan to greet the baseball players even if that means sneaking past the usher, or being in the middle of traffic in the last row behind the dugout and greet fans. “He’s been a socialite all his life,” said Richard.

But this weekend’s state bowling tournament is also big deal for  Stan. His scores and participation in non-Special Olympics leagues are proof of his dedication to the sport. And this sweet-spirited sportsman is a force to be reckoned with.

“He’s the bowler,” Richard said.


finishline2Special Olympics Georgia athletes Gunnar Stanek and Joseph Williams (pictured left and below) visited the Finish Line store at The Mall of Georgia Saturday, August 3rd.  As part of Finish Line’s Back to School Fundraising Campaign for Special Olympics, both were fitted for a new pair of shoes of their choosing.  Thank you Finish Line Mall of Georgia employees for making this a very special day for Gunnar, Joseph, and their families!




Look for our billboard on Watson Blvd. for State Masters Bowling 2013!



Teenage race car driver will be the Grand Marshal at State Fall Games Oct. 11 in Dalton

Special Olympics Georgia is proud to announce that Mason Massey, a 16-year-old race car driver from Douglasville entering his 12th season of racing, will be the 2013 State Fall Games Grand Marshal at Opening Ceremony. Massey, who’s named Special Olympics Georgia as his charity of choice, showed his race car off to athletes at State Summer Games’ Olympic Town May 18. Meeting Massey and seeing his car with the SOGA logo on the hood was a huge treat for the athletes. Click here to see Massey’s photos from Summer Games.

Click here for more  information about State Fall Games.

The youngest driver ever to make a lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway has won over 200 races in his career, 12 championships, including three Thursday Thunder Championships at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 11 track records. Massey lives with his parents Mayes and Delena Massey and is homeschooled. For more information about Mason Massey, please visit his website at www.masonmassey.com


Camp Inspire 2013

Camp Inspire

The 2013 Special Olympics Georgia Camp Inspire was held on June 17th – 24th, 2013 in beautiful Warm Springs, GA.  There were 70 SOGA athletes that attended the weeklong camp, enjoying rock wall climbing, archery, boating, fishing and much, much more!  We were blessed with beautiful weather and happy campers, which made for a great camp week.  Thank you to all of the Camp Twin Lakes staff and the volunteers from the Knights of Columbus for all of you help during the week!  We would also like to thank our other sponsors; Finish Line, Rotary Club of Dunwoody, Patterson-Barclay Memorial Foundation, Gannett Foundation, and the Rotary Club Foundation for all of their support in helping Special Olympics Georgia to provide camp to Athletes from across the State!


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.

Congratulations to Paige Copeland for being named June’s Athlete of the Month
SOGA at Emory - May 2012

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.

Mason Massey

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!

Thanks Mason!

SOGA hood

katy with medals soga 2013 (480x640)

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

lachgelliswithmedalsEDWiry 10-year-old Lach Gellis gets to run with “the big boys” this year because he’s so fast.

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.”

lachgellisEDPractice 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
and Smile


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!

2013-04-24 13.41.42

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.



over the edge

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!


over the edge 2

Parmenter Realty Partners and Buckhead Tower Support Special Olympics Georgia at the Over the Edge fundraiser.



11Alive - Jaye, Elena and award


elenaandfamily 11Alive - Speech

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:
“Good Evening,

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.

Thank you.”


Dunwoody RotarypicED_edited-1


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

silverbacksclinicAbout 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.


Meet athlete Donald Ray Richardson, II of Cobb Countydonaldrayrichardson

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!

K of C Gala J J and K (2) katy presents award K of C (2)

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.

Click for more information.

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.

mike announcer











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.

katy with coke group 2012 (2) (1024x768)

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

Matt Jones






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?”


Tandrea Baldridge

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.”
Nicole Kendall

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.”



Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day Set for Sept. 22

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!

Special Olympics wants to say Thank You Mom!  Follow the link to watch a special thank you!

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.


Every Adopted Rubber Duck Means a Meal for an Athlete at State Games

See how you adopting a duck for $5 makes a difference in Special Olympics Athlete’s life.

On June 22, thousands of yellow rubber ducks will be dumped in the Lazy River of Six Flags White Water and raced for prizes.

Once you click here to adopt a duck, a number will be assigned to your name. You do not have to be present to win.  There’s also something in it for you, because If your adopted duck is one of
the first to cross the finish line,
you could win:

* First prize: A three-night stay at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
in Las Vegas.
Second prize: $250 Macy’s Gift Card
Third prize: Four Six Flags Season Passes for 2012
Fourth prize: Amazon Kindle Fire
Fifth prize: $150 Publix Gift Card
Adopt five ducks and receive an adorable souvenir duck for $25.

Your donation does make a difference. Last weekend, nearly 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from all over Georgia competed at State Summer Games at Emory University. For weeks leading up to competition, athletes practiced their skills and put their fitness to the test. Athletes showed the true spirit of Special Olympics through winning and losing: joy, courage and perseverance last weekend.

As you adopt a duck and possibly win a prize, you’ll also help bring the
opportunity of sports and life skills to Georgia children and adults with
intellectual disabilities.
Here are a few athletes you’ll be supporting:

Jimpson Rosser, named the Male Athlete of the Year for 2012,  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 competed 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.

Christopher Joseph Hranek (or CJ as he’s known to everyone) has been competing in Special Olympics for 15 years. Pictured above with the CEO from Superior Essex, Stephen Carter. CJ is competing next week at the 2012 SOGA State Summer Games in the 100 Meter Run, 4×100 Meter Relay and the Shot Put. His sister Natalie, a SOGA staff member says this about her brother and his involvement in Special Olympics: “The impact that Special Olympics has had on CJ’s happiness not only impacts him but it impacts us as a family.”

Coweta County Special Olympics Athlete
Montana Bush
was named Special Olympics Georgia’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2011. 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 participated in aquatics events at State Summer Games: the 25m back stroke, 50m freestyle, and the 4 by 25m free relay

Adopt Your Duck Today.

Thank you to our Lucky Duck Sponsor, Kids ‘R’ Kids Schools & Academies, as well as our other
ponsors, Allconnect, Rooms To Go Children’s Fund, Atlanta Arms & Ammo, & LAZ Parking. Also, thank you to our media partner, 94.9, The Bull.

Floating DucksED

 Meet a few
athletes who competed at State Summer Games last weekend at Emory

jimpson rosser


Special Olympic Athlete CJ Hranek

C.J. Hranek

montana jones

Montana Bush


Click here for photos of 2012 State Summer Games taken by Girardi North Georgia Photography & Sports.


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!

Montana Jones SOGA Female Athlete Of The Year!

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

Central Georgia Ranch Horse Association raises 4,800 for Special Olympics Georgia!



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.


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.

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.