Special Olympics Georgia and Dragon Con

We are so excited to announce that Dragon Con has chosen Special Olympics Georgia as its Charity of the Year for 2017! Dragon Con will be matching any money raised through the convention of up to $100,000, which will directly go to support our 27,115 athletes! We are very excited to be part of Dragon Con this year and really appreciate their partnership and support!

Click here to learn more about our partnership with Dragon Con.

Athlete of the Month – Taylor Bradley

Taylor Bradley can always be found with a big smile on his face. He goes above and beyond to help out local programs in Newton County. He serves as the athlete on the Newton County School Systems management Team, participates with the Newton County masters program, and he his also a member of the Newton County Equestrian team. Taylor can be found helping out at most events in the area, whether it be setting up chairs, helping to break down equipment, and even acting as a greeter. He has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia since he was eighty ears old. He competes at State Summer Games, Winter Games, and the Horse Show, and he is currently preparing for Masters Bowling in August. Over the years, he has competed in track and field, soccer, bowling, bocce, equestrian, alpine skiing, softball, and basketball!

Volunteer of the Month – Jim Swantek

Jim Swantek has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia for as long as his family can remember. His daughter shared that he has always been “Coach Jim” to them. Jim has a son who is a Special Olympics athlete, which is why he first became involved. Jim now coaches softball and basketball, and he is currently preparing as a coordinator for the upcoming Masters Bowling Tournament. Jim goes above and beyond to encourage all athletes to achieve their goals and live their dreams. The support of Jim and his family has helped Cherokee County’s agency become what it is today. We are so grateful for his dedication and hard work!

Athlete Learns From Falcons’ Wide Receiver at ProCamp

We would like to thank Mohamed Sanu and Pro Camps for inviting Special Olympics Georgia athlete, Steffen Walker, to be part of the Mohamed Sanu Football Camp June 2-3. Steffen had a great time learning everything about being one of the NFL’s top wide receivers from Mohamed, and even showed some NFL potential, as he was chosen as “Campee of the Day”!

Camps hosted by professional athletes are a resource we cherish, as they allow Special Olympics Georgia athletes to not only learn and interact with the pros, but develop self-confidence and a sense of community with a uniquely different group of teammates.

Thanks Agent 12! Rise Up!

2nd Annual Dunkin’ Donuts Cops on Donut Shops

Thank you to all of the law enforcement volunteers and to Dunkin’ Donuts for making our 2nd Annual Cops on Donut Shops event amazing! Over $77,000 was raised for Special Olympics Georgia athletes! Thank you for helping to make a difference in the lives of 27,115 Special Olympics Georgia athletes! #SOGADonutDay #NationalDonutDay

Thank You, Engel and Völkers Brookhaven, Intown and North Atlanta!

Our good friends and 2017 State Summer Games Athlete Dance sponsor, Engel and Völkers Brookhaven, Intown and North Atlanta created a wonderful video of the competitions and triumphs at this year’s Summer Games! Thank you, Engel and Völkers Brookhaven, Intown and North Atlanta for your continued support and for this amazing glimpse at the 2017 State Summer Games!

Click here to watch their video!


Thank You, Engel and Völkers!

Our good friends and a 2017 State Summer Games Olympic Town booth sponsor, Engel and Völkers, created an incredible video that captured the excitement, determination and bravery of this year’s Summer Games. Thank you, Engel and Völkers, for your continued support and for capturing these incredible moments!

Click here to watch their video!


2017 State Summer Games

On May 19-21, we held our annual State Summer Games at Emory University. A big thank you to al of the 2017 State Summer Games sponsors! Without you, this event would have not been possible.

A special thank you to the 2017 State Summer Games Presenting Sponsor: BB Braces Braces.

GEICO Road Race

Congratulations GEICO on an extremely successful and well organized 34th Annual 5K and Fun Run benefiting Special Olympics Georgia and Area 7 on May 13th in Macon! Thank you GEICO for your continued friendship and generosity to the athletes!

Athlete of the Month – Deon Grant

Deon Grant has been a Special Olympics Georgia athlete for over 10 years, participating in ice speed skating, bocce, equestrian, alpine skiing, soccer, flag football and basketball. NOT only known to Special Olympics Georgia Colquitt County as a tremendously talented athlete, Deon also has the reputation of being one of the most dependable and team-oriented individuals. These qualities add to Deon’s success on and off the field.

Deon’s successful career in SOGA has not been limited to just the state of Georgia or the United States. the gold medalist was selected to represent Team USA at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria as an Ice Speed Skater. Deon did not disappoint, competing and bringing home the gold medal in the 22 Meter Speed Skating event and bringing back a fourth place ribbon in the 333 Meter Speed Skating event.

When Deon is not training and competing for SOGA, he works at the Colquitt Regional Medical Center as a Dietary Aide. With a stellar athletic career already under his belt, Deon is excited to continue his experience with SOGA, continuing to grow as an athlete and a member of the community.

Congratulations, Deon, on being May’s Athlete of the Month!

Volunteer of the Month – Tom Bullock

Tom Bullock became involved with SOGA 34 years ago at the 1983 State Summer Games in Brunswick. With no experience with SOGA athletes or competitions prior to those games, the organization has become a vital part of Tom’s life. With no experience with SOGA athletes or competitions prior to those games, the organization has become a vital part of Tom’s life.

After the State Summer Games, Tom became certified to coach softball, soccer, volleyball, floor hockey, bowling and athletics. In Brunswick, Tom put that certification to use coaching Masters-aged athletes (athletes 22 years or older) in softball, volleyball and soccer.

In 1989t,o m’s hard work was recognized as he was named SOGA’s Coach of the Year, as well as the head coach for UAS’s Floor Hockey Team that competed at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Reno, Nevada. Under Tom’s leadership, the team won silver, being the first team to score against Special Olympics Canada during those games.

From then on, Tom’s work at World Games continued to grow. In 1991, he was named the Head Track and Field Coach at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. He took on the role as a Floor Hockey Official in 1997 at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, and he has continued to serve in an official’s role at six World Games and two National Games.

in addition to his roles as coach and official, Tom was an athlete mentor through the SOOPA program and currently works with SOGA coaches as a certified clinician, directly training at Coaches’ Clinics in floor hockey, softball and athletics.

Congratulations, Tom, on being May’s Volunteer of the Month!

Dunwoody Country Club Supports SOGA

Thank you Dunwoody Country Club staff and volunteers for a great Day on the Courts Friday!! The 100 athletes who participated had an amazing time!

Athletes of the Month- The Shimmy Hawks

Cayla Campbell, Leah Shelton and Ashley Underhill are the athletes that make up the Shimmy Hawks rhythmic gymnastics team. These three athletes will be the first from Houston County to compete from this event at the upcoming 2017 State Summer Games in May.

These girls are dedicated to learning the two routines the will perform at the state competition. Cayla, Leah and Ashley practice each routine daily with coaches Laura Tinsley and Carrie Chastain. Although they will be competing individually, the Shimmy Hawks exemplify team spirit and comradery, performing together as a team at local competitions and their school’s Miss Veterans High pageant. They are looking forward to competing in Atlanta on May 19-21 and bringing the gold back to Houston County.

Congratulations Shimmy Hawks!

Volunteer of the Month- Leyton Pickney

Leyton Pickney is an eleventh grader at Veterans High School and has been a member of the VHS Partners Club for the past three years. Leyton enjoys interacting with students with disabilities at his school and does a phenomenal job of treating everyone the same. He is always trying to figure out a way to make students and individuals with disabilities not only feel accepted and loved, but important and confident at the same time!

His favorite memory as a Partner thus far is when he competed on a unified bowling team at State Winter Games, where his team brought home the gold. Leyton has recently helped create and produce a video to share with his school that motivates others to take the pledge to stop using the “R” word and learn about ways to respect and include all people. Leyton’s influential attitude, willingness to help and kindness to all embodies the SOGA mission and exemplifies the true heart of a SOGA friend.

Leyton (far left) with athletes from State Winter Games.

Athlete of the Month- Anna Klinect

Anna Klinect may be small, but her skill and courage are super-sized! An avid basketball player, she uses her small stature (4’7″) to get in the action with quick movements, skilled techniques and tons of courage. She thinks nothing of going head-to-head with the tallest players on the court, and the biggest players on the field. She listens to instructions well and works hard to accomplish all that is asked of her by her coaches, teachers, physicians and parents. Despite the medical challenges she faces because of Beta Thalassemia, a blood disorder that lowers the production of hemoglobin, and a kidney condition, she is a very active 17 year old who hopes to work with dogs as a career and loves participating in sports.

Anna is one of 11 kids and was adopted from New Delhi, India when she was two and half years old. She is also a HUGE fan of the music group “For King and Country” and listens to their music all day, every day. She is extremely excited about the opportunities she has encountered with Special Olympics Georgia and looks forward to the 2017 State Summer Games where she will be competing in soccer for the first time.

Congratulations, Anna, on being March’s Athlete of the Month!

Volunteer of the Month- Zurich Insurance

Zurich Insurance is a global insurer with a commitment to its people, customers and communities. The employees at the Atlanta branch unanimously agree that Special Olympics Georgia has provided an unparalleled volunteer experience. Getting to witness firsthand the talents and courage demonstrated by the athletes has left their employees with a sense of fulfillment and inspiration.

During the 2017 Winter Games, a group of Zurich employees attended the basketball competition at Ron Anderson Recreation Center. The group of volunteers cheered and supported the athletes throughout the entire day. However, their most notable efforts happened during the very last game of the day. The GSF Red Warriors were facing a victory by default because their opponents were unable to attend. the Red Warriors were excited for a victory, but incredibly disappointed that they would not be competing that night. Without hesitation, the Zurich Insurance team immediately offered to scrimmage the Red Warriors.

Smiles, laughs and words of encouragement were shared for the next 30 minutes between competitors and volunteers. It was truly an excellent example of the spirit of Special Olympics Georgia. Zurich Insurance anxiously awaits the 2017 State Summer Games so they can continue to support all of their Special Olympics Georgia friends!

Congratulations, Zurich Insurance, on being named SOGA’s Volunteers of the Month!

Athlete of the Month- Anton McGoggle

Anton McGoggle is a 5th grade student at Clinch County Middle School in Homerville, Georgia. He has been competing in Special Olympics Georgia since he was just eight years old! He has competed in numerous area and state competitions, winning more ribbons and medals than one could count.

The enthusiasm he displays at practice and in competition are to be commended. He never ceases to amaze his coaches and teammates with his abilities. Whether he comes in first or last, he always has a smile on his face and displays true sportsmanship at all times. He always manages to pick everyone’s spirits up when they are down. He truly embodies the spirit of Special Olympics Georgia!

Congratulations, Anton on being this month’s Athlete of the Month!

Volunteer of the Month- Tina Mitchell

Tina Mitchell is much more than a volunteer for Special Olympics Georgia. Starting her career with Cobb Parks and Recreation in February of 1987, Tina began her time as a beloved member of the Special Olympics Georgia family. “I love seeing the participants smile and laugh while they compete with their friends. It warms my heart to see them do their best and give their all to these competitions,” commented Tina.

Starting out as a coach for Cobb County, Tina had an enormous influence on athletes, no just in her county, but in the entire state of Georgia. 5 years ago, she decided to have even more of an impact and join the Games Organizing Committee for SOGA’s Indoor Winter Games and Southeast Powerlifting Competition, which is held in Cobb County every year. Tina is instrumental in the success of the event, making sure every detail from Opening Ceremony to the end of competitions Sunday is organized and successfully completed.

And what does she want everyone to know about SOGA? “I want everyone to witness and learn about the opportunities the athletes get that they would otherwise do without. Everyone should be a fan of Special Olympics Georgia and spread the word of what a great organization it is.”

Congratulations, Tina, on being Special Olympics Georgia’s Volunteer of the Month!

Athlete of the Month- Jimmy Lee Dyches

Jimmy Lee Dyches is an athlete from Bulloch County. He has more enthusiasm than any other student or athlete his teachers and coaches have ever ad the pleasure to work with. He has participated in the local Special Olympics program for the last 2 years. His favorite sports are track and field and bowling, and he always gives 100% He always has a smile on his face and looks forward to each day.

In his spare time, Jimmy Lee loves to sing the National Anthem and practices this on a daily basis. Jimmy Lee is a great athlete, and he is looking forward to competing in the State Indoor Winter Games for bowling.

Congrats, Jimmy, on being the first Athlete of the Month for 2017!

Volunteer of the Month- Kelly Noble

Kelly Noble serves as a Clinical Director for FUNfitness, a physical therapy screening for Healthy Athletes that is held at the State Fall Games. Kelly is an amazing leader in ensuring the FUNfitness event runs well and is fun for all of the athletes! She assists with bringing volunteers, equipment, and helps the athletes with flexibility, strength and balance.

Her passion and commitment for volunteering for Special Olympics has brought joy to the athletes and everyone who is part of FUNfitness!

Many thanks, and congratulations to our January Volunteer of the Month, Kelly Noble!

Thank You Marlow’s Tavern Brookhaven

Congratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Brookhaven location. Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great celebration! Your continued generous support and friendship helps our athletes build their self-esteem, improve their health, nurture friendships, and become meaningful citizens. And for that, we can’t thank you enough!!! Good luck with the official opening of the Brookhaven location on Tuesday!


December Athlete of the Month- David Stevens

12-year old David Stevens is a third-year veteran, as he just finished competing in the 2016 State Horse Show in Gainesville, GA.

As an athlete of Special Olympics Georgia Parkwood Farms Equestrian, David participated in Unified Drill Team and Dressage this year. With his drive and dedication, David was determined to improve his riding skills, ultimately enabling him to advance from Intermediate I competition, which he competed in at the 2015 Horse Show, to Intermediate IV competition. he additionally won a Gold Medal in both events, proving that confidence, hard work and passion are keys to success.

David’s zeal, strong work ethic and enthusiasm illustrate traits that Special Olympics Georgia athletes learn to not only apply to competitions, but to everyday life.

Congratulations, David, on being SOGA’s Athlete of the Month!



December Volunteers of the Month- Denise and George Jones

Denise and George Jones are no strangers to  the SOGA community! Each year they are instrumental in working the bullpen for Aquatics at Summer Games. Denise gets the athletes organized, while George does the bullpen announcing, making sure that every heat runs smoothly.

In the past 3 years, Denise and George have also taken on integral roles in making sure the State Horse Show runs smoothly. Denise ensures that the volunteers are signed in and points them in the right direction all while assisting with the sale of souvenirs. George is the announcer throughout the weekend, ensuring athletes make it to their events on time. George is also the Emcee for the Horse Show Opening Ceremonies.

Both Denise and George have huge hearts for the Special Olympics athletes. That is why they are selected as the December Volunteers of the Month.

Congratulations, Denise and George, on being SOGA’s Volunteers of the Month.


Legacy Mechanical Services 2nd Annual Softball & Cornhole Tournament

Thank you Legacy Mechanical Services and all of the sponsors for a great 2nd Annual Softball & Cornhole Tournament benefiting Special Olympics Georgia! Through everyone’s generosity, support and friendship, $5,970 was raised for Special Olympics Georgia athletes.



November Athlete of the Month- Ashton Anderson

Ashton Anderson is a talented young Equestrian athlete who has been riding with Hands and Hearts for Horses since he was 4 years old. He has always been successful at the Special Olympics Georgia State Horse Show, and this yea5r’s competition was no exception to the 3-time competitor. Ashton had a clean sweep with three gold medals in Advanced Showmanship, Intermediate 4 Trial and Equitation Classes.

Ashton is always proud and excited to represent Hands and Hearts at the Special Olympics Georgia State Horse Show and takes the competition very seriously. When he is not at the barn helping feed the horses or grooming his favorite pony, Bumpy, Ashton loves to be outdoors. His favorite activities at home are fishing in the pond, riding his 4-wheeler and going to the gun range with his dad and cousins.

Congratulations to Ashton on being November’s Athlete of the Month!


November Volunteer of the Month- The Yazge/Pierce Family

Paul and Alison have been married for a year and a half and have 7 kids between them ranging from 25-10 years of age. They brought their 4 youngest children (Lena, David, James and Nathan) to the Laurel Park softball competition at the 2016 State Fall Games.

They enjoy being outdoors with the kids and try to make a priority of spending 1 day each month together (free of sports, friends, etc.) whether it is a family outing or serving others. They are constantly seeking opportunities for all of them to serve together, so when the notice came through their neighborhood about the need with Special Olympics Georgia, they immediately knew they wanted to help.

The Yazge/Pierce Family were eager to help the second they arrived to volunteer. They were stationed at the awards podium all day. Paul and Alison took over the microphone to make the announcements, while the kids handed out ribbons/medals. They were incredibly valuable to the success of the softball competition, and we hope they attend for many years to come.

Thank you, Yazge Pierce Family for your support and dedication to all the athletes with Special Olympics Georgia!


Dunwoody Country Club Charity Event Weekend Tradition of Giving

Thank you Dunwoody Country Club for once again inviting SOGA be a part of the Charity Event Weekend Tradition of Giving!  The more than $100,000 raised for SOGA will cover all expenses for approximately 1,111 athletes to participate in a State Games competition.  With Dunwoody Country Club’s friendship and support, athletes will be given opportunities to focus on their abilities, gain confidence, and build a positive self-image that will carry over into all aspects of their lives.  We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Dunwoody Country Club family!


 Winter Companies Golf Tournament

Congratulations, Winter Companies, on an extremely successful 13th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting Special Olympics Georgia!! Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great event and for raising over $70,000 for Special Olympics Georgia athletes. We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Winter Companies family!!!


Kids Boost Supports SOGA

13 year old Kids Boost participant, Ruby, used her passion for helping others and love of softball and baking to raise money for SOGA athletes. Ruby chose SOGA as her charity because “every kid deserves the opportunity to participate in sports.” Ruby presented her donation at State Fall Games and was an Awards Presenter at golf.

Thank you, Ruby, for your friendship!


October Athlete of the Month- Derrick Slater

Derrick Slater is an athlete that competes year round for Special Olympics Georgia Special People. He competes in softball, basketball and track and field. Derrick also works part time at Kroger and at the Just People main office as a receptionist.

Along with all of those activities, Derrick is also one of our biggest staff helpers, lending a hand for carrying tents, coolers, equipment bags, etc. Derrick is quick to say “yes” to anything asked of him without any hesitation or complaints. He is a huge fan of music and loves dancing, singing and just loving life to the fullest.

Congratulations to Derrick Slater for being our Athlete of the Month!


October Volunteer of the Month- Kevin Enright

Kevin Enright is a coach with Special Olympics Georgia Augusta Stars. He has a passion for the Special Olympics Georgia mission and bettering the lives of athletes across the state. This year, Kevin was nominated for the White House’s “Champion of Change” award for his continuous efforts, time and dedication to Special Olympics Georgia and athletes.

When asked about Special Olympics Georgia, Kevin responded with, “I truly believe in the power of Special Olympics Georgia. I know for many that winning a medal is the most important thing to them. While winning a medal is always fun, I focus on how much their skills improve in their sport, as well as their social interactions. I want every person, athlete, coach, unified partner, volunteer, etc. who participates in Special Olympics Georgia to succeed and have fun doing it!”

Thanks so much, Kevin, for your dedication and hard work for Special Olympics Georgia and our athletes!


Marlow’s Tavern Golf Classic

Thank you Marlow’s Tavern, Sterling Spoon and Aqua blue for hosting an amazing Golf Classic benefiting SOGA on Monday, and thank you to all of the sponsors and participants! Through everyone’s generosity and friendship, approximately $95,000 was raised for the athletes. What a tremendous accomplishment, and thank you, thank you, thank you!!


September Athlete of the Month- Danette Horton

Danette Horton has been a participant and athlete with the City of Savannah Leisure Services Therapeutic Program and Special Olympics Georgia for 45 years, or since 1971. She is a current competitor in swimming, bocce and bowling, and she just competed in the 2016 State Masters Bowling Tournament in Warner Robins, earning a silver medal. A fierce athlete, Danette proudly owns over 200 medals and ribbons. In addition to being a champion in sports, Danette is also part of Special Olympics Georgia’s “Global Messengers,” which is a group of athletes who have learned how to give presentations to groups of people and join staff for public speaking engagements. Danette enjoys creating and implementing speeches, as she loves to be able to help Special Olympics Georgia start new programs and influence more individuals to become athletes. Congratulations, Danette, on being our Athlete of the Month!

September Volunteer of the Month- Kelly Gibson

Kelly Gibson is a member of the Atlanta Chapter of Bank of America’s Disability advocacy Network. She most recently volunteered with Special Olympics Georgia at our Duck Pluck Tagging Party, getting the Disability Advocacy Network members involved in a crucial piece of making the Duck Pluck a success. Not only did she champion that specific volunteer opportunity, but she facilitated all communication with volunteers along the way to ensure they had the most up-to-date information available. In addition, on the day of the Tagging Party, Kelly was the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Kelly has a strong history of volunteering with Special Olympics Georgia. She has previously volunteered at Summer Games, including assuming the role of a judge for Tennis at State Summer Games. Thanks so much, Kelly, for your dedication and hard work for Special Olympics Georgia and our athletes!


Thank You, Dunwoody Country Club!

Dunwoody Country Club, thank you so much for once again choosing SOGA as one of the beneficiary charities of your amazing annual Charity Weekend August 26th-28th! Dunwoody Country Club and SOGA have a very long-standing relationship, and it is one we are extremely proud of and a friendship that we truly cherish. SGOA athletes Juan, Tyler, Ryan and Robbie had a great time playing in the Pro Challenge Tennis Exhibition, and Daley enjoyed sharing her story with you at the Gala Dinner. It is through the generosity of friends like the Dunwoody Country Club family that we are able to do what we do. You have touched and changed thousands of lives, and we can’t thank you enough!

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2016 Duck Pluck Winners

8,700 rubber ducks swam for a chance to get PLUCKED on Friday, August 12 at the Post Chastain pool! The 2016 Duck Pluck was a huge success thanks to everyone who adopted a duck, or two, or three, or more. Post Properties hosted the event, and sponsors and Annandale Village and Henry County athletes, coaches, and families enjoyed the beautiful day by decorating souvenir ducks, playing games and dancing to music before the big pluck. Tingle from Star 94.1 FM was the official Duck Plucker. As Tingle swam around the pool, the anticipation grew as everyone was thinking “Which Duck Will He Pluck?” Finally, Tingle chose the first duck which was adopted by Beth B. who won the first place prize of a 2 Night Stay at The King & Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island. The next duck to get plucked belonged to Planner’s Engineers for second place and a 2 Night Black Bear Cabin Rental in Blue Ridge. The third duck to get plucked was Aisha A’s who won Diamond Hoop Earrings. Anthony P. was the fourth place winner of a $150 QuikTrip Gift Card. And the fifth and final duck plucked belonged to Judi O. who won a $100 Visa Gift Card.
A big thank you goes out to everyone who adopted a duck and our sponsors: Rooms To Go Foundation, Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academies, LAZ Parking, Shaw Industries, Whitaker Oil Company, Winter Companies, Rhino Shield by Georgia Coatings, Risk Placement Services, Highwoods Properties, Dobbins Thrift Shoppe, Craig Automotive, Dale Massey State Farm Insurance and North Georgia Replacement Windows. Also, thank you to Post Apartment Homes and Star 94.1 FM.

August Athlete of the Month- Dion Thomas

Dion Thomas began his journey as a Special Olympics Georgia athlete in 2001, and soon proved to be an athlete that could give any professional athlete a run for his or her money.

Dion, who deadlifted over 400 lbs at the World Games in Czech Republic, has a strong history of awards including more gold medals than one could count, being named the Naismith Basketball Special Olympics Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year.

The self-motivated athlete has also competed or trained across the globe including Florida, Colorado and Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. Dion recently completed Level II USAPL (US Powerlifting) certification, becoming the first Special Olympics athlete and one of the first 15 among all athletes worldwide to complete this course. Dion, in conjunction with USAPL, also raises awareness about Special Olympics, specifically Powerlifting, across the globe.

Dion works full-time at Cascade Corporation and participates in unified softball, basketball, bowling, kayaking, flag football, volleyball and of course powerlifting. He has also filmed for football and basketball teams for the last 10 years.

Congratulations, Dion, on being our Athlete of the Month!


August Volunteer of the Month- Alton Bentley

Mr. Alton Bentley is the father of Curry Bentley, who is a Special Olympics Georgia athlete that has been involved since 1995. In 2004, they moved from Dalton to Albany, GA where Curry got involved with Special Olympics Georgia in Albany.

Mr. Bentley began volunteering with Albany Recreation and Parks Special Olympics program in 2009. He has been a valuable asset to our organization. As a coach who is as dedicated to the sports as the athletes are, he always expects the best. Whether it’s golf, tennis, softball or basketball, the athletes thrive off the passion Mr. Bentley brings to the sport. His dependable and likable nature makes him a volunteer that every volunteer should model themselves after. Mr. Bentley brings many traits to the table that he has learned in his time coaching high school sports.

The hard work, dedication, dependability and passion that are carried over from his time as a high school coach are a tremendous help to our Special Olympics program. Mr. Bentley is welled serving for the title of SOGA Volunteer of the Month.

Alton Bentley picture

A Permanent Home for Special Olympics Georgia

Exciting news is on the horizon for Special Olympics Georgia, and we want to share it with you first! After many years of due diligence and thoughtful consideration, the Special Olympics Georgia Board of Directors has launched our first-ever capital campaign to build a permanent headquarters in metro Atlanta for Special Olympics Georgia and our thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers and families.

In this one-of-a-kind multi-purpose facility, we will host athletic trainings and qualifiers for our annual State games; train volunteers and coaches on-site; provide educational and advocacy information for our constituents; host community events and more!

More information is soon to come, so stay tuned to learn more about our new home- Training for Life: Sports Lab & Center!

Click here to learn more.

new building

July Athlete of the Month- Paige Copeland

Paige Copeland has an endless list of accomplishments when it comes to her athleticism and competition. She has more medals than one can count, and has won gold in many of the sports she has competed in, including tennis at the 2016 Summer Games.

Paige isn’t just known for being a great athlete. The Henry County Parks and Recreation athlete is also known for being a great teammate, friend and advocate of Special Olympics Georgia and its more than 27,000 athletes.

“I love all these athletes; they are close to my heart and have taught me a lot about life and loving,” commented Paige.

Paige’s zest for life, teamwork and going for the gold is what we hope to see in every athlete involved in Special Olympics Georgia.

Congratulations, Paige, for being our Athlete of the Month!

Paige 3

July Volunteer of the Month- Elease Turner

Elease Turner is the epitome of a volunteer, dedicating her entire time and energy into giving back, as seen at this year’s Summer Games.

During Summer Games, Elease volunteered to do whatever task Special Olympics Georgia staff members needed, and during the entirety of the Games, Elease organized and ran the Volunteer Check-In station, making sure all resources were available and that every volunteer was greeted with a smile and the best instructions possible. She additionally assisted at venues when needed, helping to set-up and take down volunteer tents and tables.

Genuine and wholehearted, the Special Olympics Georgia staff could not have asked for a better volunteer.

Congratulations to Elease Turner, July’s Volunteer of the Month!

Men’s Wearhouse Supports SOGA

Thank you Men’s Wearhouse for your continued support and friendship of Special Olympics Georgia athletes!


Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office Raises Money for SOGA

One of our LETR agencies, Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, raised over $800 for Special Olympics Georgia athletes at their Boston Butt’s fundraiser last month! Correctional Officer Charles Fromkin spearheaded this event, and it went off without a hitch.

Thank you to the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office for all you do for Special Olympics Georgia athletes!


Athlete Participates in Falcons’ Devonta Freeman’s Football Camp

We would like to thank Devonta Freeman and Pro Camps for inviting Special Olympics Georgia athlete, Gibby Durden, to be part of the Devonta Freeman Football Camp June 4-5. Gibby enjoyed the weekend as he learned football fundamentals from Devonta and his coach, Coach Rosser.

Camps hosted by professional athletes are a resource we cherish, as they allow Special Olympics Georgia athletes to not only learn and interact with the pros, bud develop self-confidence and a sense of community with a uniquely different group of teammates.

Thanks Devonta! Rise Up!


June Athlete of the Month- Taurus Stone

Taurus Stone represented Fulton County Schools at the 2016 State Summer Games and competed in Volleyball, where he won a gold medal.

He is a true gentleman and inspires us all. After a long day of competing and having fun, Taurus stayed after and help SOGA staff breakdown Olympic Town. He helped put up tables and chairs, all while giving us high-fives and thumbs-up for doing a good job. When told he didn’t have to help, his reply, “I don’t mind ma’am, you all work hard. I want to help too.”

Taurus’ comment shows the true spirit of SOGA athletes and brought a mile to all staff and volunteers’ faces.

Congratulations, Taurus, for being our Athlete of the Month!

June AOM pic

June Volunteer of the Month- Jasmine Lawson

Jasmine Lawson is our Volunteer of the Month. Jasmine arrived at our 2016 State Summer Games as a volunteer in Olympic Town, eager and ready to raise funds for SOGA by selling souvenirs.

Jasmine took initiative in her role as a volunteer, organizing shirts and souvenirs at Olympic Town and serving all staff, coaches and athletes with a smile, brightening everyone’s day in the midst of a rainy weekend. She even stayed to help wherever she was needed.

Without volunteers like Jasmine, we couldn’t do what we do. Thank you jasmine for all of your optimism, enthusiasm and support, and thank you to all volunteers at each and every State Games.

VOM June

Legacy Water Group Golf Outing

Legacy Water Group held a Golf Outing to benefit Special Olympics Georgia at Cherokee Run Golf Club on June 2. A huge thank you to all of the sponsors and golfers, and especially to who helped plan, organize and run the golf outing. We are honored that Legacy Water Group is part of the Special Olympics Georgia family, and we are extremely appreciative for their dedication to helping us celebrate our athletes’ achievements and strengths!


GEICO Road Race

Congratulations GEICO on an extremely successful and well organized 33rd Annual 5K and Fun Run on May 28! With an amazing donation of $70,000, the GEICO office in Macon has now raised $1,120,000 for Special Olympics Georgia and Area 7 over the past 33 years. Thank you, GEICO, for your continued friendship and generosity to the athletes!

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Athletes Participate in Local Golf Tournament

Thank you SUPERVALU and Food Depot for your continued friendship, and congratulations on another great golf tournament! Athletes Eric and Garry (center in picture) once again enjoyed playing in the tournament.

SuperValu Golf Tourney

Thank You, Zurich Insurance

We are proud to announce that we have been chosen as a Zurich North America Grant Recipient.  Zurich Insurance announced recipients of grants to kick off their fifth annual Global Community Week, a celebration of their commitment to making a sustainable difference in communities.

To see their official press release, click here.

zurich logo

2016 Professional of the Year

On May 19, we celebrated staff milestones and awards. Congratulations to the following members of our SOGA family on their accomplishments:

  • Kelli Britt, Senior Sports and Education Manager, reached her 15th Anniversary with Special Olympics Georgia
  • Shawn Berglund, Sports and Program Manager, was chosen as SOGA’s “Professional of the Year”
  • David Crawford, Senior Sports and Education Manager, reached his 7th Anniversary with Special Olympics Georgia


Thank You Marlow’s Tavern, Sandy Plains

Congratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Sandy Plains location. Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great celebration! Your continued generous support and friendship helps our athletes build their self-esteem, improve their health, nurture friendships and become meaningful citizens. And for that, we can’t thank you enough! Good luck with the official opening of the Sandy Plains location on Tuesday!  

Marlow's Tavern Sandy Pines

May 7, 2016 Over the Edge

The May 7th event which was held at the Overlook III building in Vinings was a big success and raised over $106,000 for Special Olympics Georgia!  Thanks as well to the 70 edgers who bravery went down the side of the 20 story building to raise awareness and money for SOGA!

OTE SPonsor2

May Athlete of the Month- Kawame Owusu

Kawame Owusu is a 20 year old senior at Stephenson High School, full of Jaguar pride. Not only does he like to show off his Jaguar spirit, but he exudes his love, passion and enthusiasm for Special Olympics Georgia . When you meet Kwame, his smile is contagious and his sweet, caring personality radiates.

Throughout the years of being a Special Olympics Georgia athlete, Kwame’s collection of medals and ribbons are beginning to mount up. At Sate Games, he competes in basketball team skills and modified volleyball each year. On a local level, he has competed in a broad span of sports that includes volleyball, basketball, bowling, bocce, tennis and athletics. Kwame epitomizes the true spirit of a Special Olympian with his encouraging attitude, kind-heartedness, positive sportsmanship and willingness to assist others. He has an extraordinary way of sharing and spreading this to his coaches, teachers and teammates. We congratulate Kwame on being May’s Athlete of the Month!

Athlete of the Month

May Volunteers of the Month: Chamblee High School National Honor Society

The Chamblee High School National Honor Society stresses scholarship, leadership, character and service to school and community. When it comes to Special Olympics Georgia, the members from this organization go above and beyond in every aspect.

This relationship initially began with an athlete and his older brother. 25 years later, the Chamblee High School National Honor Society has continued to be involved with the DeKalb County Schools Special Olympics Program. Each year, this elite club and its members volunteer by officiating both the track and field events at the DeKalb County Special Olympics athletics competition. For the past three years, they have also contributed their time to volunteering for the DeKalb Local Volleyball Tournament. In addition, they will be diving into hosting an Aquatics Invitational in May.

The Chamblee High School National Honor Society embraces our Special Olympics athletes with acceptance and kindness. The friendship and fan-like support that they exude provides a platform for each of our athletes to be a true champion. On behalf of the DeKalb County Special Olympics Athletes, thank you to the members of the Chamblee High School National Honor Society for their continued service and friendship.


April Athlete of the Month – Cory Griffin
Cory Griffin spends most of his days at LARC (Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center) collecting and bundling cardboard, but in the evenings, he transforms into a SUPERHERO! As Valdosta Lowndes Parks & Rec. Authority’s new flag football quarterback, Cory (age twenty-two) adorns his armor and leads his teammates into another dimension. Cory’s willingness to help others and staff is often telepathic and without hesitation. His achievements on the playing field include medaling in all team sports at superhuman speed. Cory’s smile is magnetic and animated. His energy, enthusiasm, and turbo-powered team spirit are what make Cory Special Olympics Georgia’s April Athlete of the Month. Congratulations Cory!

Cory Griffin

April Volunteer of the Month – Sara Lilly
Sara Lilly has shown exemplary community involvement with the Valdosta Special Olympics. For the past three years, Sara has volunteered at local Special Olympics events in every capacity from painting faces in Olympic Town to facilitating the fifty-meter dash. She embraces the spirit of volunteerism both in her personal involvement and also by example – she brings her young son to each event to teach him the importance of giving to others. Though he is only in second grade, it is evident that his mother has instilled a keen understanding of the values of giving, understanding, and inclusivity. Sara also inspires others to engage in volunteer service through her school at Highland Christian Academy and her church, Grace Baptist. Sara’s cheerful attitude, bright smile, and big heart make her an asset to Valdosta Special Olympics, and her giving spirit makes her a true ambassador among volunteers. Congratulations Sara on being recognized as the April Volunteer of the Month!!

sarah lilly


March Athlete of the Month – William Robinson
March Volunteer of the Month – Mason Brown
William Robinson is very active with Forsyth County, competing in basketball, soccer, and athletics.  During the summer of 2015, Will was invited to attend the Youth Forum at Emory University to become a Special Olympics Georgia Youth Leader (youth leaders are teen-aged athletes and volunteers that act as advocates for SOGA in their communities and take the initiative to learn and train in new sports, so as to educate others).  At the Youth Forum, William learned strategies to increase his school’s involvement with Special Olympics.  In January at the 2016 State Indoor Winter Games, William’s Unified Basketball Team, the Forsyth Flash, won the gold medal for their division! As Summer Games approaches, William will begin training to complete for the gold medal.

Mason Brown lives in Albany, has a sister with autism, and attends Deerfield Windsor School, which doesn’t have a Special Olympics program. Inspired by his sister Marlee, Mason wanted to become more involved in his community and have his school host a competition for his sister and her friends. Mason decided that the best way to get the information and training that he needed would be to attend the Youth Forum at Emory University and become a Y-LEAD (Youth Leaders Educating others About Disability).

Last month, William and Mason were selected to represent Special Olympics Georgia at the 2016 Special Olympics Project Unify Conference in Phoenix, AZ. They were able to collaborate with other high school aged youth leaders to discuss Project Unify and brainstorm ways to become more involved and get their communities and schools more involved.

Through the Youth Leadership Program, William has made new friends in Georgia and from all over North America. At the conference in Phoenix, he even received compliments for his “southern charm” from a youth leader from Alberta, Canada.  And after gaining the information needed from the Youth Forum and Project Unify Conference, Mason shared this information with his peers. With the help of Mason and his peers, his school is now hosting its very first Special Olympics Georgia event in April.

It is for these reasons that we are very proud to recognize William as the February Athlete of the Month and Mason as the February Volunteer of the Month – Congratulations!!

mason and will puconf2016

February Athlete of the Month – Tavis Crawford
Posted by Thomas Richt, February 8, 2016

Tavis Crawford, better known as the “Gentle Giant”, has been participating in Special Olympics with Henry County Schools since 2008. He is currently a student at Stockbridge High School, and his favorite sports are basketball and flag football. Tavis has the most awesome sportsmanlike behavior of any athlete. If his team is winning, he is high fiving his teammates and coaches, and if they are losing, he is doing everything imaginable to lift up their spirits! His favorite words are: “Come on Guys, we can do this!”

When you see Tavis, physically, he is a huge young man that appears to be overpowering….that is until you meet him. He is the most mannerable, courteous young man you would ever want to meet. His compassion for his teammates and classmates is beyond awesome. He loves cheering all participants on, no matter what sports they are participating in. And after the game is over, whether his team won or lost, he is the first to shake hands and greet his opponents.

Two weeks ago, Henry County Schools was all ready and excited to go to the State Indoor Winter Games. They had picked up athletes from 4 schools in the county, and Tavis’ school was the last pick-up. As he was coming down the sidewalk to get on the bus, they got the dreaded phone call that all
extra-curricular activities were suspended for the entire weekend. This meant that Henry County Schools was not going to be able go to the games. Tavis hadn’t even had a chance to get on the bus. His big sweet face was sad, and then he said, “We’ll get em next year!” The world would be a much better place if we all had an awesome attitude like Tavis.

It is with great pleasure that we recognize Tavis Crawford as the February Athlete of the Month.

travis Crawford

Tavis Crawford & coach Tiffany Price

February Volunteer of the Month – Lore Griffin
Posted by Thomas Ritch, February 8, 2016

Lore Griffin has been volunteering with Henry County Schools Special Olympics for over 10 years, along with her husband Norm and her sons Matt and Nicholas. Lore actually lives in Jackson County, but it was through her mother who is a Henry County Schools bus supervisor that she got involved with Henry County Schools Special Olympics.

Lore doesn’t just show up to chaperone and watch athletes. She helps clothe and feed them. She supplies them with meals and will go out and buy shorts, toiletries, and whatever else they need.

Lore initially started volunteering with the bowling teams, and her sons were unified partners. As her sons got older, they wanted to be on the basketball team. Lore then became the team mom! She makes sure that they have water, Gatorade, and supplies basketballs for the team to have at State Games to practice. The Special Olympians love her and her family, and Henry County Schools doesn’t know what they would do if she wasn’t able to come to State Winter Games!!!

For Winter Games, Henry County Schools was in need of partners for their team. Lore was able to get partners involved from the Jackson County High School Football team, in which she is a Booster Club member. She made sure that the boys were transported down to Henry County to practice with the team and get to know the players. On the Friday of Winter Games, before the superintendent cancelled all extra-curricular activities, Lore had the boys in her car and was halfway to Cobb County before she got the call that Henry County Schools wouldn’t be competing. She and the boys were disappointed, but they vowed they’d be back again next year.

Lore is not just a great volunteer, but she is a sister and a friend to Henry County Schools Special Olympics. It is for all of these reasons that Lore Griffin is more than deserving to be the February Volunteer of the Month!

Lorre Griffin

Lore Griffin (in blue LETR shirt) with the 2014 gold medal team.

2016 Equestrian Youth Day at the Capitol
The 2016 Equestrian Youth Day at the Georgia State Capitol was held on February 2nd.  Special Olympics Georgia Athletes that participated in the 2015 State Horse Show and medaled were invited to attend.  Iron Horse Equestrian was able to attend and showcase a few of their athletes, while getting their picture with Governor Nathan Deal.  Congratulations to Coach Christine Johnston and her athletes!horse show 2

horse show 1

 2016 Crane Fund for Widows and Children
Thank you Crane Fund for Widows and Children for your continued friendship and support of Special Olympics athletes, and for inviting us to be a part of the charity organization reception on January 29th!

crane fund

2016 State Indoor Winter Games Featured on 11Alive Atlanta & Company
Conn Jackson and 11Alive Atlanta & Company featured an amazing story, “Heart of Champions.  “Athletes Share True Spirit of Special Olympics” on the January 28th show.  Click on the below picture or hyperlinked story title to see the heartwarming piece and meet some of our incredible athletes.

winter games story

2016 State Indoor Winter Games Athlete Profile: Dion Thomas
Posted by Lee Wright, January 8, 2016

Dion ThomasDion Thomas has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia for more than 15 years through the Kay Center in Fort Valley. During that time, he has become not only one of the top power lifters in Georgia, but throughout the nation and the world as well.

Dion recently competed in the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) World Championships in Hamm, Luxembourg in November. This marked his third appearance in the World Championships, and he was paired in a group that featured the Russian world record holder in both the bench press and deadlift. But that didn’t deter Dion at all. He won the overall title in the group, lifting a total of 1,025 pounds – 303 pounds on the squat, 242 pounds on the bench press and his personal-best 475.5 pounds on the deadlift.

Not only has Dion excelled as a competitor this past year, but he reached a new level as a coach as well. He and Kay Center Director Todd Youngblood took part in the IPF Coaching Certification Training in Lamanga, Spain in April. The three-day session involved rules, lifts, reviewing nutrition programs and setting up training programs. Both Dion and Todd became two of only 17 coaches in the world to earn the IPF Level II Coaching Certification.

2016 State Indoor Games Athlete Profile: Rudolpha Richards Barron
Posted by Lee Wright, January 8, 2016

Rudolpha Richards BarronRudolpha Richards Baron has been an athletic involved with Special Olympics since 1995.  She has competed in athletics, basketball team skills, bocce, softball, tennis and volleyball during her Special Olympics career.   In both 1995 and 1999, she represented the Virgin Islands in tennis, and, in 2003, she represented Georgia/USA for Volleyball.

Currently, Rudolpha represents Gwinnett Special Forces as the captain of her basketball team skills team, is on a unified doubles bocce team, and an athlete coach for athletics.

One of her most memorable recent experiences that Rudolpha has had within the past year was to be a Torchbearer representing Gwinnett Special Forces’ team for the 2015 Unified Relay Across America (World Games).  Being able to carry the flame that would lead to World Games in Los Angeles was something she will never forget.

Rudolpha is the ultimate cheerleader and encourager of every athlete.  No matter if it is competition for medals or ribbons, or even just a practice, her eagerness to do her best rubs off on her fellow athletes where they also perform their best to receive her accolades.  Her smile is contagious, and her eyes light up when she is involved in any part of Special Olympics, be it opening ceremonies, coaching, or competition.  It is said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, and in Rudolpha’s eyes, she shines a love for all of those involved in Special Olympics be they athletes, coaches, or staff.

2016 State Indoor Winter Games Athlete Profile: Brent Raessler
Posted by Lee Wright, January 8, 2016

Brent RaesslerBrent Raessler started participating with Cherokee County in 1995 at the age of 13. Over the past 21 years, he has participated in Special Olympics Georgia in basketball, volleyball, swimming, diving, bowling, golf, softball and equestrian.

In 1999, Brent represented Cherokee County and Georgia in the Special Olympics World Games in Raleigh, N.C., winning Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in Equestrian events. Additionally, Brent played catcher in Special Olympics National Softball tournaments in Chicago, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Princeton, NJ for the Cherokee County Unified softball team. His team won Gold medals at each of these tournaments.

While Brent enjoys the competition of Special Olympics, he also loves the social interaction and teamwork with fellow Special Olympics athletes, unified partners and coaches. Brent has worked in customer service at Publix for 14 years, and one of his favorite challenges is to sell the most torch icons on his shift during the annual Publix Special Olympics fund drive.

Brent serves as the Athlete Involvement Chair for Special Olympics Cherokee County and is appreciative for how much Special Olympics has enriched his and his family’s life. Brent has also recruited his father Rick and brother Drew to volunteer as coaches in several sports for the Cherokee County delegation.

January Athlete of the Month – Maria Johnson
Posted by Lee Wright, January 7, 2016

Maria Johnson

Maria Johnson

Maria Johnson is an incredible example of what it means to be a Special Olympics Georgia athlete. She is courageous when competing, encouraging to her teammates and proud of her accomplishments.

Maria has been an athlete with SOGA for more than 16 years. She exemplifies the Special Olympics athlete oath by trying her best and being brave every time she competes in an aquatics competition or at the State Masters Bowling tournament. But Maria also works hard on strengthening her organization skills and learning new things while supporting SOGA in our Atlanta office.

Maria has been interning in the Atlanta office for some time now. She works a few hours of each week, helping SOGA staff to file documents, organize offices and even helps prepare for SOGA State Games. Maria is encouraging and fun to be around. She is an inspiration to all of the SOGA staff and to many of her coaches and teammates.

It is with great pleasure to recognize Maria Johnson as SOGA’s Athlete of the Month for January.

Anna Helen McKelvey

Anna Helen McKelvey (right)

January Volunteer of the Month – Anna Helen McKelvey
Posted by Lee Wright, January 7, 2016

Anna Helen McKelvey is involved in Special Olympics for many reasons. However, her main reason is that she believes every person – including those with disabilities – should be able to live a fun and fulfilling life and Special Olympics gives people with disabilities this chance.\

Anna Helen’s goal in being a part of Special Olympics is to “integrate and normalize special needs student’s lives as much as possible.” She understands that activities that may not be a “big deal” to a typically developing teen (ie. going to the mall or the movies) may be a really big deal to a teen with a disability. “It could change their entire outlook & make their life better,” she said.

Anna Helen is involved with Beta Club, Key Club and the Interact Club at Mary Persons High School in Monroe County for all the same reasons. It’s her passion for community service and participating in various activities that give back to the community. Anna Helen adds that being a part of these organizations within her school are “unbelievably rewarding and humbling,” and she feels that she is blessed to be able to give back to others.
SOGA  volunteer and event manager Whitney Warren worked with Anna Helen this past summer at our annual Special Olympics Georgia Youth Forum. That is a four-day overnight forum that trains Special Olympics YLeads (Youth Leaders) in various Special Olympics programs so that they can raise awareness in their local communities and hopefully start/grow their local Special Olympics programs.
“I had the privilege of having Anna Helen on my ‘team’ for the week, and I very much enjoyed working with her,” said Whitney. “She is a vibrant, happy and encouraging young lady, and her passion for the physically and intellectually disabled populations is quite obvious through her words and her actions.
“She inspires me to be more passionate about my work and try harder to foster change in the world for the better. She is an incredible example of what teenagers should be like; passionate, community-oriented and encouraging to others.”
It is with great pleasure to recognize Anna Helen McKelvey as SOGA Volunteer of the Month for January.

First Annual Softball and Cornhole Tournament raises $8,567 for Special Olympics Georgia

Posted by Susan Skolnick, December 3, 2015

Thank you Legacy Mechanical Services and all of the sponsors for a great First Annual Softball & Cornhole Tournament benefiting Special Olympics Georgia!  Through everyone’s generosity, support, and friendship, $8,567 was raised for Special Olympics Georgia athletes.

FullSizeRender Legacy SoftballSponsors Legacy Softball









December Athlete of the  Month – Danterious Brown
Posted by Lee Wright, December 3, 2015

Danterious Brown

Danterious Brown

This month, Special Olympics Georgia would like to recognize Danterious Brown of Valdosta Lowndes Parks and Recreation. Also known by his current football team as “Coach D”, Danterious has been coaching football for five years, assisting at two of the local high schools.

Currently assisting head coach Ashley Henderson at the Valwood School in Valdosta, Coach D is considered by the other coaches to be an asset to their coaching staff. As Coach Henderson put it, Danterious’ involvement at Valwood “goes far beyond football… there’s not a student in the school that doesn’t know him.” Coach Henderson explained that “Coach D is family,” and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Danterious currently competes in bowling and athletics (track & field). He always tries his best and has a good “coach-like” attitude. It is with great pleasure to recognize Danterious Brown (Coach D) as SOGA’s Athlete of the Month for December.



December Volunteer of the Month – P.J. Jones
Posted by Lee Wright, December 3, 2015

P.J. Jones (Center)

P.J. Jones (Center)

P.J. Jones has always been vital to Colquitt County Special Olympics. Her passion for the athletes in Colquitt County is evident in all she does for their local SO Program

This past year, after the previous Local Coordinator retired, P.J. stepped up and took over the role of Local Coordinator for Colquitt County. Her effort has tremendously helped Colquitt County with the success of their SO Program. She successfully coordinated the 2015 Area 14 Winter Games, held annually in Moultrie.
P.J. continues to put the needs of her Colquitt County athletes at the forefront of her commitment to Special Olympics Georgia. We are lucky to have her on our State SOGA team acting as a Local Coordinator. It is with great pleasure to recognize P.J. Jones as the SOGA Volunteer of the Month for December.





SOGA Athlete Nandi Isaac appointed to Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
Posted by Lee Wright, November 13, 2015

Nandi headshotGeorgia Governor Nathan Deal appointed 23 people to various statewide boards this week, and one of those appointees was Special Olympics Georgia athlete Nandi Isaac.

The Macon resident was one of seven people who were appointed to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. The mission of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities.

Born in the United Arab Emirates and of Indian origin, Isaac moved to Georgia with her family when she was six months old. She has been competing in Special Olympics Georgia for more than 20 years. It started at the age of nine with swimming, and has since broadened to include athletics, roller skating, sailing, equestrian, ice skating, hockey and basketball. Isaac will be competing in January in basketball at the SOGA 2016 State Indoor Winter Games.

Isaac has become a spokesperson and advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. Her various advocacy roles include being a partner in policymaking for All About Developmental Disabilities and has completed training in peer-to-peer support. Isaac is also a member of the Region 2 Quality Improvement Council of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and also serves on the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council.

A self-made businesswoman, Isaac owns the microenterprise “ScanWithNan,” which helps people preserve their memories through photos. For more information on “ScanWithNan,” go to www.scanwithnan.com.

November Athlete of the Month – Marnie HornsbyMarnie Hornsby
Posted by Lee Wright, November 5, 2015

Marnie Hornsby has participated in Special Olympics for 10 years, competing in many sports such as softball, bocce, bowling, volleyball, equestrian, tennis, and alpine skiing. The Henry County resident was a member of Special Olympics Team USA in the 2013 Special Olympics World Games in Korea. Marnie competed in alpine skiing, bringing home a Silver Medal in the Novice Super G event.

When she is not competing, Marnie enjoys scrapbooking, singing, and photography. She says that Special Olympics has changed her life. “Because of Special Olympics, I now feel like I can do anything I want to do,” she said.

Just recently, Marnie participated in the State Horse Show in Gainesville. During the Opening Ceremony, she wowed everyone with the National Anthem. Even though the microphone lost sound, Marnie kept right on going. However, what was so great is that everyone was singing right along with her. After she finished, Marnie admitted she didn’t like the microphone going out on her. Horse Show director Kelli Britt responded “But Marnie, did you hear everyone singing with you?” She just smiled and said “You are right and that was amazing!”

Marnie’s spirit is so inspiring! Marnie is right….she can do anything she wants to do! Marnie Hornsby is the November Athlete of the Month.

November Volunteer of the Month – Rebecca BowmanRebecca Bowman
Posted by Lee Wright, November 5, 2015

Rebecca Bowman has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia for over 11 years as an equestrian coach. Not long after beginning her coaching duties with Special Olympics athletes, she joined the SOGA State Horse Show Games Organizing Committee. Since then, Rebecca has been instrumental in sharing her resources from the equestrian community by securing judges, scribes, volunteers, gate keepers, etc., to ensure that the State Horse Show runs efficiently each and every year.

Rebecca also provides much support throughout the show by setting up the dressage arena and making sure things are running smoothly. As an avid equestrian athlete herself with North Atlanta Equestrian, she trains the Special Olympics athletes to work hard and to be the best that they can be, always doing the best to demonstrate their abilities in the arena. We are proud to name Rebecca Bowman as the November Volunteer of the Month for Special Olympics Georgia.

Dunwoody CC 4_edited-1Dunwoody Country Club Charity Event raises over $80,000 for SOGA

Posted by Susan Skolnick, November 2, 2015

Thank you Dunwoody Country Club for once again inviting SOGA be a part of the Charity Event Weekend Tradition of Giving!  The more than $80,000 raised for SOGA will cover all expenses for approximately 940 athletes to participate in a State Games competition.  With Dunwoody Country Club’s friendship and support, athletes will be given opportunities to focus on their abilities, gain confidence, and build a positive self-image that will carry over into all aspects of their lives.  We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Dunwoody Country Club family!

Marlow’s Tavern Roswell VIP/Sneak Preview event raises over $7,500 for SOGA
Posted by Susan Skolnick, October 19, 2015

MarlowsCongratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Roswell location.  Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great celebration and for raising $7,869 for the athletes!  Your continued generous support and friendship helps our athletes build their self-esteem, improve their health, nurture friendships, and become meaningful citizens.  And for that, we can’t thank you enough!!!  Good luck with the official opening of the Roswell location on Tuesday, Oct. 20!

SOGA the beneficiary at 6th-annual LAZ Parking Golf Tournament
Posted by Susan Skolnick, October 16, 2015 LAZ Parking

LAZ Parking, thank you so much for once again choosing SOGA as the beneficiary charity of your 6th Annual Golf Tournament.  From the first five years of the tournament, LAZ Parking has raised over $50,750 for SOGA athletes, which has covered all expenses for approximately 590 athletes to attend a State Competition.  Thank you LAZ Parking for your continued friendship and for helping to make our athletes’ dreams come true!

12th-annual Winter Golf Tournament raises over $50,000 for SOGA
Posted by Susan Skolnick, October 13, 2015

Winter GolfCongratulations Winter Companies on an extremely successful 12th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting Special Olympics Georgia!!  Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great event and for raising over $50,000 for Special Olympics Georgia athletes.  We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Winter family!!!







Fall Games/Horse Show Athlete Spotlight: Lauren Todd
Posted by Lee Wright September 25, 2015

Lauren Todd 2From the moment she first mounted a horse, Lauren Todd found her passion that has carried her through much of her childhood and now into early teenage years.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Lauren has physical setbacks on the right side of her body and her speech is very minimal at best. However, when she is riding a horse, Lauren can freely express herself by the joy she feels in the saddle.

“She has a competitive spirit about her, and she lets you know what she’s thinking – even without words,” said her coach, Bonnie Rachael from Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center in Guyton, where Lauren trains at least once a week.

Next weekend, Lauren, a 14-year old eighth grader at South Effingham Middle School, will be competing in her third Special Olympics Georgia State Horse competition, which will take place at the Chicopee Agricultural Center. Over the last two years, she has shown steady progress and improvement in the Horse Show.

In her first year, Lauren won two fourth-place ribbons in both Trail and Showmanship. Last year, she won two Silver Medals and a Bronze in Trail, Showmanship and English Equitation. This year, however, not only will she compete in the three previously mentioned events, but the Drill event will also be added.

This is where the competing rider and their unified partner ride together in unison to a musical piece. It involves staying in rhythm chorographically and match each other’s moves at the same time. Think of it as both synchronized swimming and figure skating pairs on horses.

To add another degree of difficulty to the situation, Lauren has spent the last month breaking in a new horse for the competition. Her horse, whose name is Sky, is a sorrel and white gelding that was once a trail horse. Lauren has been practicing for the Drill event as far back as August in preparing for next weekend.

“Both riders have to work together very closely with the music, so there is a lot of practice involved,” Rachael said. “But the one thing about our horses is they are sensitive to the kids. The key is finding the right horse for the right rider. The horse needs to know the rider’s movements and how that rider holds the reigns.”

Lauren was introduced to Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center roughly five years ago. It was an off chance meeting, according to her mother April Todd. “My mother was trying to get her into a different equestrian center, but we never heard back from them,” she said.

“Then we heard about Faith Equestrian and Bonnie and got the ball rolling. It has been wonderful for Lauren. She has a love for everything, whether it be riding the horse, competing or cheering on the other athletes,”

Because of her physical disability, the biggest challenge for Lauren when sitting in the saddle was her balance. Due to the weakness on the right side of her body, she tended to lean to the left and needed special attachments on the saddle to keep her balanced. In addition, holding the reigns also proved to be a challenge with some physical weakness in her left hand.

However, the hard work has paid off and now Lauren is fully in tune when it comes to balance in the saddle and tension in reigns.

“She use to drop the reigns a lot, but now she knows the reigns well since they are color coordinated for the grips,” Rachael said. “That in turn helps with her balance and tension. She also knows how to straighten herself on her own.”

When she is not riding or going to school, Lauren and her family are heavily involved in the Effingham County Navigator Team – a support group for families within the county with special needs children.

Fall Games/Horse Show Athlete Spotlight: Angel Morales
Posted by Lee Wright September 25, 2015

Angel Morales 3There are some athletes that choose one sport and stick with it as a primary sport. Then they are other athletes that branch out and succeed in multiple sports. Angel Morales fits that kind of athlete.

The 18-year old from Flowery Branch has excelled in more than one sport since becoming a Special Olympics Georgia athlete roughly seven years ago. It ranges from basketball and soccer to kayaking – all high-intensity and fast-paced sports. However, next weekend at the Special Olympics Georgia 2015 Fall Games, he will compete in a more mind-oriented game – Bocce.

Morales first took up the sport about three years ago, and at first, he wasn’t impressed by it at all. But as he learned all the intricacies of the sport, it came more natural to Morales. If anything, it taught him all about teamwork and strategy – probably more than what he learned in both basketball and soccer.

“At first I thought it was going to be very boring,” said Morales. “However, I was wrong. It’s very competitive. It’s a thinking game – a lot of teamwork involved, and you need to have a plan going into it.”

Morales’ coach, Scott Crain from the Hall County School System, credits that to his pure natural athletic ability and mindset.

“He is really a natural athlete,” said Crain. “He seems to catch on very fast to anything new. And he has a gentle spirit to him as well. He takes those with lesser abilities and takes them under his wing.”

You name the sport, and Morales has stood out. He has captained three Gold-medal winning soccer teams from Hall County at the State Summer Games at Emory, plus played on three Gold-Medal winning Hall County basketball teams in the State Indoor Winter Games in Marietta. Through in multiple medals in kayaking and even Gold in bocce, and Morales has become one of the top all-around SOGA athletes in Hall County.

In kayaking, Morales has teamed up with fellow SOGA athlete Will Crain as two of the top SOGA kayakers in the state. Scott Crain, who has seen Morales move up from the recreational boat to the flat water sprint boats in only three years, believes that if he had been given the opportunity, Morales could have competed with Will Crain for the Gold Medal in kayaking at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games this past summer in Los Angeles.

“They paddle together all the time and are great friends,” Scott Crain said. “They really push each other well and cheer each other on. It’s a shame that Angel has not had the chance to compete at the national and international level yet.”

It doesn’t stop with Special Olympics either. A graduate this past spring from Flowery Branch High School, Morales lettered his junior and senior seasons in soccer. As a senior this past season, he was an honorable mention All-Region 8-AAAAA selection as a defender, helping lead the Falcons to the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

This fall, Morales is participating in the Project Search program offered by the Hall County School System. Done in conjunction with North Georgia Health Systems, this is a program that provides internships to high school seniors and recent graduates with intellectual disabilities. The program was established as a transitional program to help ease the high school graduates into the work force.

Morales’ day consists of both classroom time and rotation time in certain areas of the hospital. His goal is get hired full-time the moment he completes the program.

“Certainly this will help him develop his job skills,” Scott Crain said. “The goal is to hired within the hospital, and he has a great chance to be hired.”

Fall Games/Horse Show Athlete Spotlight: Martin Academy Bocce Team
Posted by Lee Wright September 25, 2015

Martin Bocce Team 3As a teacher of children ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade at Flowery Branch’s Martin Technology Academy for Math and Science, Becky Vinson sees a wide variety of kids from different backgrounds and with different needs.

With that in mind, she felt that the children’s time at Martin should not be limited to just the classroom. That is where Special Olympics Georgia came in. Vinson figured why not get her young students involved in SOGA and expand not only their physical attributes, but their minds as well.

“We have always participated locally in Special Olympics, but never at the state level until last year,” said Vinson. “However, it’s the most awesome experience to watch these kids be so excited and self-confident.”

Next weekend, Vinson will have a team of her students participating in the sport of bocce at the Special Olympics Georgia 2015 State Fall Games in Gainesville. Her team consists of Jack Jorgensen, Abril Ibarra, Leland Agans and Nehemiah Hagins. Their ages range from eight to 11.

This is the second straight year that Vinson has entered a team for bocce. It’s also the first year with the current group of kids. So teaching a thinking and strategic game to kids not familiar to the sport can be a challenge for her. However, it’s a chance for Vinson to teach the mental skills of the game even more than the physical skills.

“Most of them did not even know what at bocce ball was,” she said. “But they’ve done well in learning a new game. I’ve worked with them on problem-solving and the scenarios on how to help your teammates. It’s been a lot about learning to work together.”

The State Fall Games isn’t the only Special Olympics Georgia event that Vinson has participated in with her teams. She has taken teams as well to the State Indoor Winter Games in Marietta and the State Summer Games at Emory University. Vinson credits the parents of the children for entrusting her with them. Although the State Fall Games will take place close by within Hall County, Vinson and her team will treat it like a road trip.

“That is a lot to ask of a parent – letting their kids go away for a weekend like that,” she said. “But they are very receptive to it all. The first time we went to Winter Games, most of the kids had never stayed in a hotel. But they staying there, going out to eat and competing. Because picturing the parents’ show of pride in their kids competing is wonderful.”

September Athlete of the Month: Joyce Burton
Posted by Lee Wright September 3, 2015

Joyce BurtonJoyce Burton is a 36-year old, all-around, vibrant athlete. She represents Special Olympics Georgia in Putnam County, Georgia in Area 7. Joyce is a very athletic and sports-oriented athlete who enjoys all aspects of competition in Special Olympics and community recreation. She is always very eager to participate and is competitive at local, area, and state levels of SOGA competition.

Joyce has been involved and has participated in traditional and unified team basketball and softball, track and field, equestrian (showmanship/intermediate trails), bocce and singles bowling. For the first time this year, she competed in the 2015 Unified competition in State Masters Bowling, in which her team placed fourth. Our Special Olympics Georgia program has been very influential in enhancing Joyce’s self esteem, athletic and sportsmanship skills, positive attitude and her love for sports.

Congratulations to Joyce Burton, SOGA’s well-deserving September “Athlete of the Month!”



Dunwoody Country Club Charity Weekend
Posted by Susan Skolnick  August 24, 2015

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Dunwoody Country Club, thank you so much for once again choosing SOGA as one of the beneficiary charities of your amazing annual Charity Weekend August 21 – 23!

Dunwoody Country Club and SOGA have a very long-standing relationship, and it is one we are extremely proud of and a friendship that we truly cherish.  SOGA athletes Jordan, Kelshaun, Tyler, and Robert had a great time playing in the Pro Challenge Tennis Exhibition, and Brooke enjoyed sharing her story with you at the Gala Dinner.  It is through the generosity of friends like the Dunwoody Country Club family that we are able to do what we do.  You have touched and changed thousands of lives, and we can’t thank you enough!

Masters Bowling Athlete Spotlight: Lewis Gordon
Posted by Lee Wright, August 7, 2015, 4:15 p.m.

Lewis Gordon_webOne of Special Olympics Georgia’s more distinguished athletes, Lewis Gordon with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority has been participating in SOGA for over 28 years.

He competes in many different sports throughout the year, starting with floor hockey at State Winter Games. This year, Lewis and his VLPRA floor hockey team took home the Gold Medal. That was followed In May when his VLPRA volleyball team also won the Gold Medal at the State Summer Games.

However, one of Lewis’ favorite sports is bowling. He is very much looking forward to getting back up to Warner Robins this year for State Masters Bowling Tournament, and, hopefully, build on his unified bowling team’s Silver Medal from last year. Lewis will also have the honor of giving the Athlete Oath at the State Masters Bowling Tournament Opening Ceremony.

Along with competing in state events, Lewis has also represented the USA and SOGA at the World Games. He and his floor hockey team won a Bronze Medal at the 2009 Special Olympics World Games in Boise, Idaho.

Lewis does more than just compete in sports for SOGA. He is also an athlete intern at the office in Valdosta, always handling whatever is pushed in his direction with a smile on his face. Lewis has made many global messenger speeches all over the state of Georgia, and has traveled up to Washington D.C., to rush Capitol Hill for three straight years on behalf of athletes all over the world.

Masters Bowling Athlete Spotlight: Colin “Ray” Deloach
Posted by Lee Wright, August 7, 2015, 12:15 a.m.

Ray-Deloach-164x300At 49-years old, Special Olympics Georgia athlete Colin “Ray” Deloach has been a member of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Special Olympics program for the majority of his life. Ray’s story is nothing short of that of a SUPERHERO!

At the age of two, Ray had a very high fever and an infection which caused damage to the speech area of his brain. As a child, Ray did not play any sports outside of his Special Education classes. He earned his GED and began participating in the VLPRA Therapeutic Program. Enter Superhero powers!

It was at VLPRA that Ray learned about Special Olympics Georgia, where his disability is nonexistent. Putting his powers to the test, he has conquered many obstacles along his journey in SOGA. Just this year alone, Ray took home the Gold Medal in both Team Floor Hockey at the State Winter Games in Marietta and Team Volleyball at the State Summer Games at Emory University.

Boom! Pow! Ray looks forward to the challenge of State Masters Bowling Tournament in Warner Robbins. Lets see if he can make it a Gold Medal trifecta for this year! Good luck Ray!

Masters Bowling Athlete Spotlight: Susan Shultz
Posted by Lee Wright, August 7, 2015, 11:55 a.m.

Susan ShultzAnother distinguished athlete in Special Olympics Georgia, Susan Shultz has been participating in SOGA since the early 1980s. In addition, she is one of a few athletes that have been a part of the State Masters Bowling Tournament since its inception in 1990. With that in mind, Susan has competed in State Masters Bowling in Warner Robins, Savannah and Columbus through the years.

But it doesn’t stop with bowling for Susan. She has also excelled in both volleyball and basketball in SOGA. In fact, she was the Nesmith Award winner as the most outstanding basketball player for Special Olympics Georgia in 1980. Susan has competed in volleyball at the local level in Warner Robins and at the State Summer Games at Emory University.

Susan has been a great all-around sports athlete who excels in all sports in which she participates. She has the support of her fellow athletes and Happy Hour Service Center in Warner Robins where she is involved. In addition, her parents have been her biggest supporter in Special Olympics Georgia through the years.

Here’s wishing Susan all the best in the upcoming State Masters Bowling Tournament in Warner Robins later this month!

Thank You Marlow’s Tavern Woodstock
Posted by Susan Skolnick, July 13, 2015, 1:52 p.m.

Woodstock VIP TeamCongratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Woodstock location.  Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great celebration and for raising $6,648 for the athletes!  Your continued generous support and friendship helps our athletes build their self-esteem, improve their health, nurture friendships, and become meaningful citizens.  And for that, we can’t thank you enough!!!


July Athlete of the  Month – Nate Price
Posted by Lee Wright, July 2, 2015

Nate Price1There’s a few minutes left on the clock at the Special Olympics Floor Hockey game. The once cheering crowd abruptly becomes silent as Nate swings; the puck soars through the air and lands in the goal. The crowd goes wild as the Valdosta Parks & Recreation team wins the gold medal!

Nate Price, nicknamed “Reggie Bush”, has competed on a local level for several years, even though his first Fall Games were in 2014. Nate is a “Natural at Sports” and “Quite The Athlete”, stated his coach Tammy Crosby; Therapeutics Director of Valdosta Parks & Recreation.

He is known for always keeping everyone’s spirits
high with his team motivational skills and positive attitude. Nate has led his team to win gold medals in floor hockey and volleyball in State Games. Watch out for this rising star athlete as he competes in his very first Master’s Bowing Tournament on August 21-23 in Warner Robins, GA.

Congrats to Nate for being Special Olympics Georgia’s “Athlete of the Month” for July!

June Athlete of the Month – Keenan Allen
Posted by Lee Wright, July 2, 2015

Khoury KeenanKeenan Allen has been a part of Fayette County Special Olympics for a number of years, trying his hand at various sports.  Most recently, he tested out his skills on the sailboat!

As he worked hard to improve his skills, he was able to participate in the Charleston Sailing Regatta in June as part of the Georgia crew.

While in Charleston, when there were times that the water splashed up in his face and eyes, we would ask “are you ok?”  He was always quick to respond with “I’m OK, big guy!  I’m OK!”  After he would complete certain tasks on the boat, he would always say “good job, big guy!!”  From then on out, we were Team Big Guy.

Keenan shows a love for other people and still lets you know when he’s not interested in doing a certain sport – even if he doesn’t use a lot of words – he is definitely able to get his point across.  We are all very proud of Keenan and all of his talents, accomplishments, and passion he shows!

Congrats to Keenan for being Special Olympics Georgia’s “Athlete of the Month” for June!

Gwinnett Athlete Cameron Chalmers
Posted by David Crawford, May 4, 2015, 2:02 p.m.

Cameron_ChalmersCameron Chalmers will play volleyball as an athlete and support the coaches as needed at State Summer Games in just a few weeks. Set with his own signature whistle, he’s prepared lanyards made of yarn and name tags for his team and coaches. At practices, you’d probably hear him call out to his teammates: “Hit it this way! You need to hit the ball harder! Hit it straight to me!”

“In his heart of hearts, he is a born leader,” said his mom Elaine Chalmers, and added sometime Cameron is allowed to use his whistle in games to signal it’s time to serve.

Cameron, 18, and his Gwinnett volleyball team will join about 2,800 athletes, coaches, and unified partners May 29th-31st for the games at Emory University. Competitions will take place in athletics, aquatics, flag football, gymnastics, soccer, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball. Don’t miss Opening Ceremony at McDonough Field. The parade of athletes will be led by Grand Marshal Harry Douglas, former Atlanta Falcon who recently signed with the Tennessee Titans.

SOGA’s cost for each athlete at Summer Games is $100. Please help make an athlete’s dream come true and make a life-changing donation today! Any gift amount is greatly appreciated and will be a tremendous help.

Thank you to our generous sponsors: Aetna (Presenting Sponsor), The Winter Construction Company, Autotrader, UPS, American Honda Motor Company, ADP, ALTA Foundation, Cox Enterprises, SuperValu, The Coca-Cola Company, Nordstrom, Jones Day, Whole Foods, Magnolia Advanced Materials, LAZ Parking, The Men’s Wearhouse, Voya Financial, Inwood Holdings, Aon, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, Comcast, Macy’s, Hewlett-Packard, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Booz Allen Hamilton, Allied World, Malone Law Office, Rural Sourcing, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Whole Foods, AmeriFleet Transportation, Hometown Foundation Inc./Dream Ride, and Emory University!

(Left to right in photo: Coach Karen O’Connor, Cameron Chalmers and Coach John Hardison.)


GEICO hosts successful walk that raised $82,500 for SOGA and Area 7!
Posted by Susan Skolnick, April 30, 10:20 a.m.
Congratulations GEICO on an extremely successful and well organized walk on April 23rd! With a record setting donation of $82,500, the GEICO office in Macon surpassed the $1 million dollar mark in total funds raised for Special Olympics Georgia and Area 7 over the past 32 years. That total now stands at $1,050,000. Thank you GEICO for your continued friendship and generosity to the athletes!!



Atlanta Falcons’ Jake Matthews hosted Kroger Play Unified ProCamp April 25th
Posted by Susan Skolnick, April 30, 10:22 a.m.
Over 100 Special Olympics Georgia athletes participated in the Kroger Play Unified ProCamp hosted by Jake Matthews on Saturday, April 25th. Thank you Kroger, Procter & Gamble, and Jake for providing our athletes with such an amazing opportunity!

GEICO Fun Walk and Check Presentation to Special Olympics to be Held April 23rd
Posted by Susan Skolnick, April 16, 2015, 8:58 a.m.
For 32 years, GEICO has sponsored various events including Road Races, and this year a fun walk, that have raised more than $800,000 in pledge contributions to help benefit Middle Georgia Special Olympics and Special Olympics Georgia. This year, on April 23, hundreds of GEICO associates and local Special Olympic athletes will participate in a Fun Walk and raise more than $70,000 in pledge contributions. GEICO will also present the check to Middle Georgia Special Olympics and Special Olympics Georgia.


brandonED(In the photo above, Brandon is on the far left.)
Special POPS Tennis Athlete Named April’s Athlete of the Month
Posted by Whitney Warren, April 2, 2015, 2:25 p.m.
Brandon Martin has played with the Special POPs Tennis Academy, of the Peachtree City Tennis Center, since its inception in 2011. Now 20, he has developed quite a passion for tennis and is one of the most faithful athletes. As he worked hard to improve his skills, he also moved very quickly to the level 5 court, the highest court level. He has also won three gold medals in tennis at State Summer Games. Highly motivated, he is willing to take on tasks that may seem difficult and is a great example for others in the program.

Tennis has taught Brandon a lot about focusing and working together on a team. He loves working with his coaches, who encourage him, and he in turn encourages the other athletes. He loves it so much he invited one of his friends, Matt, and now they compete with Special POPs together! Congratulations, Brandon, for being April’s Athlete of the Month!

Meeks_School_Journalism_Flag_Ole_Miss_9Carrollton Athlete Named Athlete of the Month
Posted by Brady Brantley, March 13, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

Through Athlete Ryan Phillips’ involvement in Special Olympics and trying his very best, he has come so far not only as an athlete, but also as an individual.

After Ryan lost his mother when he was very young, he was withdrawn and unable to be around loud noises and crowds.

But since he turned 11, the Carrollton athlete pushed himself to compete with Special Olympics in softball, basketball, and soccer. Through sports competition and being a part of a team, Ryan began to outgrow his shy demeanor.

Now, Ryan is very social and continues to amaze those around him who have seen him grow into the outgoing and motivational young adult that he is today. In 2010, Ryan travelled to Omaha, NE as a SOGA representative at the National Youth Summit during USA Games. Ryan has attended Special Olympics Georgia Camp Inspire as an athlete and as a Y-LEAD representative. Y-LEAD is mostly comprised of students who do not have intellectual disabilities but want to be agents of change in their schools.

Ryan’s hard work as an athlete and an ambassador is how Ryan became what few athletes have the opportunity to become: a college student. Ryan attends Kennesaw State University’s Inclusive Academy and lives on campus in a dorm. He is a leader and an incredible inspiration to others. Congratulations, Ryan, for being March’s Athlete of the Month!

northside-athletesThank You Note to Northside Athletes Foundation for Support

Posted by Thomas Ritch, February 27, 2015, 5:22 p.m.

Thank you to the Northside Athletes Foundation for Sponsoring the 2015 State Indoor Winter Games. We had a blast, and it wouldn’t of been possible without the support of our great sponsors like you!



WSBTV, Polar Plunge Media Partner, Takes the Plunge with SOGA Feb. 21st

Posted by Wendy Bigham, February 10, 2015, 4:15 p.m.

Check out the story WSBTV’s Mark Winne did on the Polar Plunge and about him getting ready for the plunge Feb. 21st at Lake Lanier Sunset Cove. Plunge with him or donate to the WSBTV team.

Albany Athlete Selected for February’s Athlete of the Month

Posted by Kyle Rowe, February 5, 2015, 6:00 p.m.

Tyechia Luster was one of the first athletes to compete in Albany Recreation and Parks Department’s Special Olympics program. In seven years, she’s competed in all parts of the state, but 2014 was her biggest year in competitions. At last year’s State Indoor Winter Games, she and her 3-on-3 basketball teammates, the “Hot Shotz”, won a gold medal after several exciting and close games. At State Summer Games, she won the gold in tennis skills at Emory University. This was only her second year in tennis competition! But, the highlight of Tyechia’s year came in late spring when she was selected to represent Team Georgia in bocce at the USA Games in New Jersey. She enjoyed all the extra practices and special events, especially flying in a plane for the first time in her life! She brought home several medals in bocce.

Tyechia is a great athlete and lives a full and happy life with her family! In addition to competition, she works at Goodwill Industries on the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. Her love for Special Olympics is infectious and has spread to her family. Her sister Natasha Knighton has been her Unified Partner in bocce and bowling. Her brother-in-law Eric accompanies them to most competitions.

She has certainly made Albany, Georgia, and Team USA very proud. Congratulations, Tyechia!

amy_carter_athletesValdosta Athletes Visit State Capitol and Local Representative

Posted by Wendy Bigham, February 3, 2015, 11:49 a.m.Some Special Olympics Georgia Athletes from Valdosta visited the State Capitol and saw Georgia House of Representative Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), who’s also a teacher at their Lowndes High School! Below is a portion about the visit in her legislative update email to constituents:

“On Saturday evening, as Doug and I were decorating my new office, I heard several voices coming through the Capitol. Turns out it was a group of students from Lowndes High, who had collected numbers of awards at Special Olympics events earlier that day. They couldn’t believe I was still at work (it was around 8:30 p.m.), and I couldn’t believe I had students from my own school there in the Capitol! I had the pleasure of showing them around the Capitol and getting them on the Senate floor.”

FullSizeRender-233x300Fayette County Bowler Proves Playing Unified Is Possible; Attends State Indoor Winter Games

Posted by Wendy Bigham, January 9, 2015, 8:52 p.m.

Playing unified just comes natural to Fayetteville athlete Jackson Lester and his friends at White Water High School.Years before, a friendship was quickly bound by sports and camaraderie, a 7th grader quarterback took Jackson, who takes special education classes, under his wing.When he competes in bowling at State Indoor Winter Games Jan. 23-25th in Cobb County; they’ll be pulling for him again. And when he wins a medal, which he says he hopes to do, he’ll be sure to show his friends at school. Knowing what it’s like to win games, Eli and friends congratulate him on a job well done.“I feel great. It really helped me . . . they’re my friends. They support me and that’s how I win sometimes,” Jackson said.Once, Jackson was included in a dodgeball game of middle school football and basketball players. Wanting Jackson to feel accepted, Eli had asked the opposing team to not hit Jackson with the ball. It came down to Eli and Jackson against the other team. One guy was put out on the opposing team and Eli caught the ball and handed it to Jackson.Jackson’s Mom heard about the story and said it was a rare moment that she wished she had seen. “They made Jackson feel like the star player of the game,” Kristin Lester said.At Winter Games, Jackson will probably be very precise and competitive but also cheer on his teammates. If the ball goes into the gutter, at first he’ll fold his arms with his head down and go back to his seat but will look up and say, ‘That’s OK, I’ll do better next time.’Kristin said Special Olympics has given him the chance to feel special; to have confidence; be proud of himself for trying even if he didn’t do well and do what his other siblings can do.

But different from college sports teams, where you know the team won’t just cheer when the opposite team cheers; Special Olympics teams do.

“It’s a powerful thing to hear because the athletes are cheering for each other,” she said.

ed_savannah_martinCoweta County Athletes Shows Physical Fitness Strength and Family Strength; Competing at State Indoor Winter Games.

Posted by Wendy Bigham, January 9, 2015, 8:54 pm.

Special Olympics is helping push Coweta County Athlete Savannah Martin and her family to higher levels.The 14-year-old began competing just a few years ago and already has gold medals hanging in her room to show for it. Just last State Winter Games, she won the gold in her first year of competing in individual basketball skills. This year, she said she’s excited to try again in a few weeks in Cobb County.She’ll have to throw the ball in a square on a wall, catch and throw the ball again, shoot and dribble without losing control of the ball. Overall, she’s gotten stronger mostly thanks to swimming year-round with Special Olympics and Nautical Milers, which is a team for people with special needs within U.S. Masters Swimming. She competes often and sometimes against teams of swimmers who don’t all have special needs.Indeed, Savannah is getting stronger. She’s learning to dive off the edge of the pool, turns and flips in laps and can do the butterfly and backstroke.Most recently, she swam 500 meters in Lake Lanier with a swim buddy for Swim For Your Life, which is a fundraiser for cancer research.Special Olympics has been great for the family, too, said her Aunt Jennifer Powell. “These are the things you rearrange your schedule for. Your heart is beating fast when they’re up and about to compete.”Talking with other families about what services are available for the athletes is also helpful, Jennifer said.“It’s like having someone understanding what you go through,” she said.

At State Games, Savannah and Jennifer met a dentist who told them about Dentistry For The Developmentally Disabled Foundation in downtown Atlanta that is capable of providing sedation for dental cleaning, which is something Savannah needed. She got a pair of prescription glasses that she needs for school. They still have the nutritional information from last year’s State Games.

All of these things make life better. “I want her to have the skills she needs when meeting new people, and how to get along, make friends and enjoy moments,” Jennifer said.

jessica_griffith-225x300Athletes Become Cheerleaders To Support Fellow Athletes at Basketball at State Indoor Winter Games

Posted by Wendy Bigham, January 9, 2015, 8:56 p.m.

Cobb County Athlete Jessica Griffith and a small group of friends will probably be the loudest and most expressive “fans in the stands” at State Indoor Winter Games happening later this month.The group of athletes – Cobb County Cheerleaders—just want to cheer. Right now, they focus on just basketball season, because of the other sports the athletes do in the summer and fall.When you see the group, you’ll see them beaming from ear to ear, said Jessica’s Mom Carol Griffith. “It’s not matter if they are out of step –coordination can be a problem for some—but they just go out and have a good time.”Jessica, 35, and 5 fellow cheerleaders will cheer at Suwanee Sports Academy (formerly known as All Tournament Players Park) during State Indoor Winter Games Jan. 23-25. The cheerleaders (all female) practice Tuesday nights at Fair Oaks Community Center. And, the coaches give them the team’s competition time.Many say when the Cobb County Cheerleaders first organized 25 years ago, they became the first Special Olympics cheerleadering squad in Georgia. Although cheerleading isn’t a SOGA sanctioned sport, it is offered in other states including Arizona, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. At least one other Special Olympics Georgia agency – Gwinnett Masters—has a cheerleading squad.Jessica was one of the first members of the Cobb County squad. Carol said the uniforms were first handmade and were comprised of a sweatshirt with the puff painted designs and plaid skirts. Then the uniform was blue and gold and now for at least the last 10 years, are the red, white and black uniforms.She began cheering when she was in the 4th grade, when a teacher created the squad. “I like to cheer for my team,” she said. She graduated from high school in West Cobb County and has enjoyed working at Dairy Queen since 2001, where she helps clean and stock supplies.In the last few years, cheerleaders from the local high school will come to the Cobb’s squad practice to help or teach new cheers. Last Winter Games, the squad danced to “R.E.S.P.E.C.T,” by Aretha Franklin.

Her favorite cheer is:

Two bits

Four bits

Six bits a dollar

All for Cobb

Stand up and holler!

In addition to cheering, Jessica competes in aquatics at State Summer Games and softball and State Fall Games. “I like winning medals and doing my best,” she said. Advice? “Just do your best.”


Debbie with King PinsAthletes Get Ready For Upcoming State Indoor Winter Games and Southeast Powerlifting; Bowling with Special Olympics Comes Family Time

Posted by Wendy Bigham, January 8, 2015, 2:31 p.m.

Last State Indoor Winter Games, Kimberly Ware’s Uncle Tom Browning cheered from the stands at her bowling competition. Kimberly then asked if the avid bowler would give her and her Fayette County team, the King Pins, some bowling pointers before this year’s state competition. He agreed, and for the last four Saturday mornings, Tom has driven from his home in Marietta to Peachtree City to help coach Kimberly’s team.

His coaching has spurred on even more family involvement in Special Olympics. They’ll bowl as a family after practices. “We don’t get to see him much, so it’s good family time,” Kimberly said.The retired law enforcement officer will cheer on his niece again this year at the State Indoor Winter Games January 23rd-25th in Cobb County. She will join approximately 2,272 athletes and unified partners from across the state. Basketball, floor hockey, gymnastics, powerlifting, and roller skating competitions will also be held. Opening Ceremony will be Friday night at the Cobb Civic Center with Grand Marshal Randy Cross leading the parade of athletes. Randy is a three-time Superbowl Champion who hosts a show on 92.9 The Game.Thank you to the following sponsors of the State Indoor Winter Games: Metlife, Lockheed Martin Aero Club, Winter Construction, AutoTrader.com, firstPRO, Allied World Assurance, Commercial Property Professionals, JP Morgan, Georgia Power, Northside Athlete Foundation, Nypro, Econis Labs, Cobb EMC, Dream Ride, Amerigroup, Wynne Foundation, Knights of Columbus, and Metro Power.Click here to show your support of the athletes attending State Indoor Winter Games.Also that weekend, SOGA hosts the Southeast Powerlifting competition in Marietta, featuring 75 athletes and unified partners from across the state and from North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.

(In the top picture above, Kimberly Ware (top, right) stands with her team and Debbie Parrish, therapeutic coordinator at Fayette County Parks and Recreation.)

ED_rachel_blanchardJanuary Athlete of the Month: Rachel Blanchard of Columbus

Posted by Shawn Berglund, January 8, 2015, 2:06 p.m.

Special Olympics Georgia is proud to announce Melissa Crawford of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department as January’s Volunteer of the Month.

Melissa has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia since 2013, and the department has truly grown since her arrival.

The athletes have been involved with State Games participating in Winter, Summer, Masters Bowling, and Fall Games, with the help of Melissa’s dedication. She quickly earned her coach’s certification in five sports: bowling, tennis, basketball, bocce, and cycling. This upcoming Spring, Melissa plans for her agency to host a state invitational for aquatics.In addition to working with her athletes, Melissa enjoys shopping; traveling; fine dining; cooking; cake decorating; and spending quality time with the family.

Congratulations, Melissa, for being January’s Volunteer of the Month.
dunwoody_2014-300x195Dunwoody Country Club’s Charity Event Weekend Raises More Than $23,000 for SOGA Athletes!

Posted by Susan Skolnick, Dec. 18, 2014, 3:09 p.m.

Thank you Dunwoody Country Club for once again inviting SOGA be a part of the Charity Event Weekend Tradition of Giving! The more than $23,000 raised for SOGA will cover all expenses for approximately 271 athletes to participate in a State Games competition. With Dunwoody Country Club’s friendship and support, athletes will be given opportunities to focus on their abilities, gain confidence, and build a positive self-image that will carry over into all aspects of their lives. We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Dunwoody Country Club family!

SEC_2014_flag_football-300x225Fayette and Colquitt County athletes Participate in a Flag Football Exhibition Game at SEC Championship FanFare

Posted by Wendy Bigham, Dec. 8, 2014, 11:41 a.m.

SEC fans cheered on Fayette County Blue Devils and the Colquitt County Packers during their flag football exhibition at SEC FanFare Saturday at the Georgia World Congress Center. Great job to the players and coaches! Thank you to SEC for the opportunity for Special Olympics Georgia to show off our athletes’ abilities.


will_crainDecember Athlete of the Month: Will Crain

Posted by Kelli Britt, Dec. 4, 2014, 7:51 p.m.

What a remarkable guy . . . Will Crain!Will loves music, Power Rangers and Transformers. As a young boy, he carried a Transformer figurine with him everywhere he went. One could say Will has truly taken the supernatural character to heart. As an 18-year-old, Will has overcome many obstacles in his life.For instance, Will had a liver transplant in 2006, but that didn’t slow him down for long. His personality is infectious. When you meet him, you can’t help but smile and be inspired by him.For more than 8 years, Will has competed in basketball, bocce, bowling, soccer, and kayaking.Most recently, Will was selected as a member of Team USA to compete in kayaking at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.Will attributes his growth in self-confidence to the opportunity of competing in competitive sports with Special Olympics Georgia. Congratulations to Will for being December’s Athlete of the Month!

(Photo Credit: Tim Wilkerson)

AvalonThank You Marlow’s Tavern Avalon

Posted by Susan Skolnick

Congratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Avalon location. Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great celebration and for raising $8,105 for the athletes! Your continued generous support and friendship helps our athletes build their self-esteem, improve their health, nurture friendships, and become meaningful citizens. And for that, we can’t thank you enough!

Today’s the day! Remember Special Olympics Georgia today for Georgia Gives Day

Posted by Lucy Faxon, Nov. 13, 11:21 a.m.

Georgia Gives Day is an initiative that has been co-created by Georgia’s nonprofit sector. It doesn’t support one cause or one locale – it’s all of Georgia’s nonprofit sector pulling together to ask you to stop and consider your life and your community without nonprofits. On November 13, 2014, we will challenge the public in a “flash mob of giving” focusing on one 24 hour period to see how much we can raise for Georgia’s nonprofits. Whether you have $10 or $10,000 to give, it’s all tax deductible and it all adds up!

jeffrey_keatingNovember’s Volunteer of the Month: Jeff Keating

Posted by Zach Hageman, Nov. 6, 3:34 p.m.

As a soldier in the United States Army, Lt. Colonel Jeff Keating has traveled around the world. He has seen Stonehenge, visited the Holy City of Jerusalem, and explored the German countryside just to name a few. However, there is no place that Jeff would rather be than with his family.Jeff is a devoted husband and father of three, one of which is a Special Olympics Georgia Athlete. Jeff and his son, Jeffrey, became involved with Special Olympics in 2013 when their family was stationed in Indiana. Upon becoming involved with Special Olympics, the family was hooked right away.Since then, Jeff has worked tirelessly to further involve his family and those around him in Special Olympics. This year, Jeff and Jeffrey, who is named Athlete of the month below, competed at Summer and Fall Games.Now stationed at Fort Stewart, Lt. Col. Keating has sought to raise awareness of the benefits of Special Olympics to the base and surrounding community. Lt. Col. Jeff Keating’s dedication to his family, the Special Olympics Georgia community, and his country is what makes him our Volunteer of the Month for October. Congratulations Jeff!

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Posted by Lucy Faxon, Nov. 6, 2014, 11:59 p.m.

The Dunwoody Police Department teamed up with a local gym to allow officers and guests to walk on treadmills for 24 hours straight to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Georgia. They started last night at 6pm and will continue on until 6pm tonight. They did a great job promoting the event which aired on WSB-TV news this morning. In addition they setup a live stream of the event. Watch it now! http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dunwoody-police-cuffed-for-a-cause and visit their website created to take online donations at http://bit.ly/Cuffed2014. Both of these links and many photos from the event can be found on their facebook page as well.

red_robinRED ROBIN “TIP A COP”

Posted by Lucy Faxon Nov. 6, 2014, 1:38 p.m.

This nationwide campaign was held at five Georgia Red Robin locations on Saturday, October 25th during lunch and dinner shifts. Officers and athletes greeted guests, helped bus tables and collected donations from guests for Special Olympics. A very special thanks to the agencies who served and congratulations on raising more than $6,000 (beating our goal of $4,000)! Attached are some photos.$1893 Evans, GA – Columbia County Sheriff’s Office

$1671 Lawrenceville, GA – Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office

$1439 Newnan, GA – Coweta County Sheriff’s Office and Newnan Police Department

$800 Columbus, GA – Ft. Gordon

$735 Cumming, GA – MARTA Police

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LAZ Parking Holds 5th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting SOGA

Posted by Susan Skolnick, Oct. 20, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

LAZ Parking, thank you so much for once again choosing SOGA as the beneficiary charity of your 5th Annual Golf Tournament. From the first four years of the tournament, LAZ Parking has raised close to $39,500 for SOGA athletes, which has covered all expenses for approximately 465 athletes to attend a State Competition. Thank you LAZ Parking for your continued friendship and for helping to make our athletes’ dreams come true!

EDWinter-Construction-Group_2014-300x234Winter Companies raises $62,000 through its 11th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting SOGA

Posted by Susan Skolnick, Oct. 17, 2014, 12:36 p.m.

Congratulations Winter Companies on an extremely successful 11th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting Special Olympics Georgia! Thank you for once again inviting Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of this great event and for raising over $62,000 for Special Olympics Georgia athletes. We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Winter family!!!

jon _paulCongratulations to Macon’s Jon Paul Thomas for being selected as Athlete of the Month!
Posted by Wendy Bigham, Oct. 2, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

Jon Paul joined Special Olympics when he was in high school.He was labeled “high functioning” and had good grades in regular education classes. Because of his grades, he wore the gold Beta Club cord at graduation.
But, Jon Paul had no interest in social skills, said his Mom Liz Ferguson. At home, he was a total couch potato and was only interested in video games.

Before Special Olympics, he had not participated in sports before. He made fast friends with athletes who welcomed him into their group. Soon, Liz was shocked and amazed to hear her son initiate contact with his teammates after a few months, and later with the coaches. He became very good at bowling, and then competed in tennis, bocce, basketball, softball, and floor hockey.

He doesn’t really care about medals. More so, he loves the traveling, staying in hotels, and hanging out with the different Special Olympic groups. Jon Paul has also given speeches to parents at a number of seminars and would love to become a Special Olympics Global Messenger.

He is a wonderful artist, and has done flyers for local tournaments, as well as help design shirts. “I love the wonderful positive changes Special Olympics has made in his life,” his Mom said.Congratulations Jon Paul, for being named Athlete of the Month!

will-with-champion-sign-168x300Prepping for State Fall Games: Golf is One Building Block of Will Gillis’ Confidence

Posted by Wendy Bigham, Sept. 30, 2014, 1:37 p.m.

On the 18th hole of Lakeview Golf Course in Blackshear, Will Gillis nailed a 30-feet putt. Looking around for applause and maybe TV news cameras, he shouted, “I am a champion!”

Big hopes and dreams have come in the way of practicing every Saturday and Sunday with his Unified Partner and Dad Pap for Will, who will be the sole Brantley County athlete competing in golf next weekend.Similar to Phil Mickelson, who swings with the opposite hand he naturally uses, Will is left-handed but swings right-handed. On his bedroom dresser are golf tees, golf balls and golf score cards kept safely in glass dishes. Each year Will goes with his family to TPC at Sawgrass where he collects professional golfers’ autograph. This year, he got 8 signatures on his cap. His favorite golfers are Mickelson and Tiger Woods.The 16-year-old athlete has become a local celebrity, himself, said his parents. For two years in a row, Will has been named Most Valuable Player at the local high school’s Booster Club golf tournament fundraiser. Last Fall Games, a couple of the area’s restaurants placed his name on their marquees with wishes of good luck and congratulations at State Games.He simply loves golf. And his parents said Special Olympics is giving him way more important skills than athletic ones.

“This is a place he can compete and succeed in something that other kids can succeed in,” his Dad said.“We love Special Olympics because everyone wins,” his Mom Lisa said, who teaches special education at Brantley County Middle School. “The opportunities are limited for him, but when we saw he was really enjoying himself and was serious about golf, we started researching places he could compete,” she said. “Nobody’s upset, no parents are screaming from the stands in Special Olympics. Will just wanted to be like everyone else.”One of the benefits of participating in Special Olympics is the opportunity to develop self-confidence, his Dad said. “As his skill level increases and he gets better at it, his confidence builds.” With Special Olympics competition being on an equal playing field, Will officially works to complete goals, gets scores and feels the sense of accomplishment he otherwise may not feel. Independence is another outcome that the Gillis family is excited about. Will has already discussed what he would like to do after high school. He will go to college like his sister, Laci.“Someday he hopes to work on a golf course. He’ll have his own grill, lawn mower and his own place. “We’re working toward that independence,” his Mom said.

With his determination and family support, he’ll get there.

Every time he’s about to leave the last green, he says: “Da, I had fun today. Let’s play again next weekend.”

jennifer_maddoxNext Weekend’s The State Horse Show is Also Practice for World Competition for Jennifer Maddox

Posted by Wendy Bigham, Sept. 30, 2014, 1:31 p.m.

It’s the love of her horse and just riding horseback that brings Jennifer Maddox to the State Horse Show this weekend at Chicopee Woods Agriculture Center.

“There’s a connection with my horse,” Jennifer said of her American Painted Horse named Georgia. “She’s calm with me; can be excited but not rambunctious,” she said and added that Georgia has never scared or bucked while she was riding her.

The State Horse Show is just one example of the many opportunities she’s had through Special Olympics that otherwise, she wouldn’t , said her Mom Kristi Maddox. She began training for Special Olympics competition in kindergarten, when her family learned Jennifer had a mild intellectual disability, her Mom said.

As Jennifer began competing in track and field events at school and then on to compete year-round in various sports, Kristi has seen her daughter become a confident, outgoing, happy person with a good sense of self. In addition to equestrian competition, Jennifer has competed in alpine skiing, floor hockey, softball, basketball, tennis and soccer and soccer skills and kayak and master bowling.

“She would have never been able to do as much as she’s done without opportunities through Special Olympics,” her Mom said. Competitions and sports training is free. She’s been able to travel to different states, including Nebraska for a softball invitational while back.

So, by now, the Henry County athlete will have practiced twice a week; once with her private equestrian teacher at the Calvin Center in Hampton and second with her Special Olympics team working one equitation and trail drill team on Saturdays. She’s learned a lot of the basic of horse riding: how to groom her horse, how to approach her quietly by letting the horse sniff her gently balled-up fist. Then at the Calvin Center, she’s ridden six miles on horseback in the woods, with a group and has been judged by how she and her horse handle obstacles and objects in the horse’s way.

She has already won many gold, silver and bronze medals at the State Horse Show since she began riding five years ago. This State Horse Show is one step closer to her world games competition 10 months from now in Los Angeles.

In a few months, she and other Team Georgia athletes will head out for training to Indiana, where she’ll meet the horse she will compete with at World Games.

will_1Gainesville’s Will Crain: Next Weekend it’s State Fall Games; Next Year It’s the World

Posted by Wendy Bigham, Sept. 30, 2014, 1:15 p.m.

One of the bocce players next weekend at State Fall Games is hometown athlete Will Crain of Gainesville.

His bocce team is a reigning group of gold medalists after a nail biter of a bocce match at last State Fall Games in Dalton. At first they were considered the underdogs, as they lost one bocce match to the team who hadn’t lost a game so far. Then Will’s team came back and beat the team to beat twice. Will’s Dad Scott said he’ll never forget seeing the whole team running across the field to meet the coach at the end of the round.

“It’s the camaraderie. The players encourage one another, especially when it comes time to roll,” Scott said. No matter what sport it is, you have to train, his Dad said. “You have to know what your teammates are doing, and pay attention to each player’s bocce ball throws.”

Ten months from now you’ll see Will Crain, a junior at Johnson High School, kayaking at Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. He will compete in the 200 and 500 meter competition in a two-man kayak. The one thing that bocce at State Fall Games this weekend and that kayaking on the state or world level is that training leads to success.

Will began kayaking five years ago in middle school and was the only kayaker with an intellectual disability on a Junior Olympics kayak team at the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. His coach had paddled in Europe in the Olympic trials.

“In Will’s mind, there isn’t anything he can’t do,” said his Dad Scott. Discipline and training year-round in various sports is what creates that drive and determination.

Scott, who is the parent mentor in the special education department of the Hall County School System, has seen Will develop discipline by going from recreational kayaking to kayaking racing. Every week, Will puts his kayak in Lake Lanier and works on speed and balance.

“My plan is to row hard, do my best and just go with it,” Will said.

“This is my first time going to the World Games,” Will said. Asked how he’s approaching the games and getting his mindset ready for such a large and widely promoted event with lots of people from different countries. One step at a time, Will said. “I’ve done competition before and have been out of town so I’ve done it before,” he said.

What does he say to his fellow competitors at State Fall Games and any competitor? “Encourage them to try their best and see how it goes.”

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Katy Wilson, Hall County Athlete Known Mostly for Gymnastics, Taking On Bocce Now

Posted by Wendy Bigham, Sept. 30, 2014, 12:52 pm

Highly-acclaimed gymnast Katy Wilson will compete in bocce for the first time at State Fall Games next weekend at the age of 34.

For more than two decades, she has won more than 100 medals at state, regional and World Games. With those accolades, she has traveled to many countries to attend conferences and World Games including, Ireland, The Netherlands, Morocco and Canada.

As she has gotten older, Katy now adds bocce to her mix of sports. “In gymnastics, she may not always be able to do the bars. But bocce is something that you can do at any age,” Katy’s Mom Jeanne says.

Obviously, balancing on a beam a few feet off the ground is very different from bocce, otherwise known as Italian lawn bowling. There is an individual score in gymnastics, but you’re scored as a team in bocce. Yet, one of the skills needed for gymnastics isn’t far off of what is needed for bocce—concentration, Katy says. Like gymnastics, bocce’s a game of inches.

The easiest part of bocce is that it is a laid-back, relaxed activity, says Katy. The hardest part is understanding the rules. “You have to know the rules and what you’re doing. It’s like a board game. Everybody gets to play,” Katy says.

The captain talks to the other team members before tossing the ball but the coach has to stay off the court and not provide help during the game, Jeanne adds. “The players and team captain have to look to each other and learn to be independent,” she says.

Katy is continuing to learn how to be more independent.

On television, she’s made appearances on Nickelodeon, Wide World of Sports, CNN’s Page One and has even been invited to the White House during two Presidents’ tenure. She was also chosen as one of the 10 Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers to speak on behalf of Special Olympics.

When Katy was born, her achievements were only dreams that some would say were far-fetched. Katy’s parents Jeanne and Jerry were told by doctors that their daughter, born with Down Syndrome, would have limited options in life.

Yet, she trains future athlete public speakers in the Global Messenger program. She is a member of the Board of Directors. She volunteers at Challenged Child, which offers an environment where young children with developmental disabilities can learn in a full inclusion program. Katy works in the kitchen, making and delivering lunches, and she loves helping with the laundry. And she is bravely taking on an unfamiliar sport bocce.

“She is a lady so exceptional, happy and successful. She’s wonderful,” her Mom says with pride.


Beth Bridgers: Equestrian Turned Softball Player for State Fall Games

Posted by Wendy Bigham Sept. 30, 2014 12:50 pm

Cobb County Athlete Beth Bridgers will switch from holding a horse’s bridle at the State Horse Show to swinging a bat at State Fall Games this year; which are both being held next weekend in Gainesville.

“I’m excited,” Beth said. “I get a hit in about every inning. The coach didn’t know I hit that well!” Beth said and laughed. Not everyone knows she already has a history with softball as a teen. Beth, 40, will play right field on her modified team, which means her coach Tom O’Connor will pitch to his team.

Soon, however, she will once again prepare to return to showing horses after Fall Games.

She got her first horse Sandy Gin at the age of 24 and developed a bond with her horse as she competed in State Horse Shows and local non Special Olympics shows, winning many ribbons and medals.

In 1999, she was selected to be a member of Team Georgia’s equestrian team and competed in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina. Then a few years ago she began losing interest around the same time when her horse Miss Sandy Gin died at the age of 27. It was devastating for Beth.

But things are changing. A couple of years ago, Beth got Crystal. She is 13-year-old horse and is a sorrel, with a white star on her forehead. Beth loves just relaxing and riding her for fun and not necessarily competing. She’s even ridden Crystal without a bridle and just hold on to the horse’s halter.

Special Olympics Georgia didn’t come along for the family until after Beth graduated from high school. Two of her friends told her about softball and soon after Beth joined the team. Until then, she had never played ball or been part of a team, said her Dad Joseph Bridgers.

Since joining Special Olympics at 19, the world has opened up more for Beth. She’s also competed in swimming. Over time, Beth has become more outgoing; so outgoing that she’s joined the cheerleading squad for Cobb County Special Olympics and cheers especially at State Winter Games basketball, said her Dad.

As a Global Messenger for Special Olympics Georgia, she’s spoken to civic groups and potential sponsors on behalf of Special Olympics and what it has meant to her. She’s done radio interviews and spoken with the Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan on Fox 5 about fundraisers.

No matter what sport or activity it is, Special Olympics has a constant benefit: “Special Olympics means making new friends and expressing what Special Olympics means to me,” Beth said.

Thank You Marlow’s Tavern Mall of Georgia

Posted by Susan Skolnick September 10, 8:41 a.m.

Mall of Georgia VIP smaller

Congratulations Marlow’s Tavern on a great Sneak Preview and VIP Party at your new Mall of Georgia location. Thank you for once again allowing Special Olympics Georgia to be a part of another opening and for raising $5,660 for the athletes! We are truly honored and proud to have you as part of the Special Olympics Georgia family and to be a part of the Marlow’s Tavern family! (Photo above was taken by Tim Wilkerson.)

Congrats to Forsyth County Athlete Joey Franken!

Posted by Wendy Bigham September 5, 9:00 a.m.


September’s Athlete of the Month is Joey Franken with Forsyth County Special Olympics.

In addition to being a great athlete while playing softball and basketball among many other sports, Joey demonstrated his love for Special Olympics by fundraising for the Over the Edge fundraiser. That meant also rappelling 20 stories in support of all his fellow athletes! We’re looking forward to seeing Joey and his Forsyth team play softball at State Fall Games.

Congrats, Joey!

Check Out Awesome Photos from State Masters Bowling in Warner Robins Last Weekend

Posted by Wendy Bigham August 27, 3:50 p.m.

Brad Newton, of Brad Newton Photography based in Atlanta, got some incredible pictures to show you what Masters Bowling was like last weekend in Warner Robins. Everything from athletes 22 years old and up celebrating at Opening Ceremony with friends, bowling, high-fiving volunteers, being a part of the 220 athletes who received dental screenings to receiving medals, Brad captured it.

View photos from Opening Ceremony and the dance.

Enjoy photos from bowling and see Healthy Athlete volunteers give athletes teeth check-ups.

Dunwoody Country Club Charity Weekend

Posted by Susan Skolnick August 25, 12:03 p.m.


michael_holland dunwoody_dance_2014

Dunwoody Country Club, thank you so much for once again choosing SOGA as one of the beneficiary charities of your amazing annual Charity Weekend August 22nd – 24th.

Dunwoody Country Club & SOGA have a very long-standing relationship, and it is one we are extremely proud of and a friendship that we truly cherish. It is through the generosity of friends like the Dunwoody Country Club family that we are able to do what we do. You have touched and changed thousands of lives, and we can’t thank you enough for that! SOGA athletes Drew Durden and Juan Diego Otiniano had a great time playing in the Pro Challenge Tennis Exhibition, and Michael Holland’s Global Messenger speech and dance moves were highlights of the Gala Dinner.

State Masters Bowling This Weekend Will Be Another Chance to Show Technique and Make Friends

Posted by Wendy Bigham Aug. 19, 11:27 a.m.

An intent bowler, athlete Billy Connell stays focused on the game and technique. If he gets down on himself, “I’ll tell him ‘you’ll get it next time,’ said his coach and family friend Christina Currere. Then Billy will quickly turn around and say ’Yeah, I’ll get them next time,’ she said. He’s considered to be a strong athlete and has learned his skill by self-correcting.

Usually, the Roswell athlete lines up the bowling bowl on the lane and does his best, she said. His bowling average is around the mid-80’s. If it isn’t a strike, he turns to cheer for another athlete on the lanes—even if the person is not his teammate. And if he doesn’t know the other athlete, he is quick to introduce himself.

And, Billy will probably add to his growing list of friends this weekend at State Masters Bowling in Warner Robins, where 1,300 other Special Olympics Georgia athletes will compete.

Aside from the serious bowler who owns his own bowling shoes and ball, Billy is also quite the jokester and happy. “I’ve never seen him in a bad mood.” He’s also been known to listen to his I-pod — preferably to Michael Jackson — all the way up to when it’s time for him to bowl.

Monday night was his last official practice before competition.

Since Christina began coaching Billy in Special Olympics, she’s seen him also compete in bocce, powerlifting among other sports. “He’s matured a lot,” she said. He’s grown into an independent and respectful young man.

This weekend, he’ll use the focus he’s known for and will do his best.


Visual Impairment Doesn’t Stop Macon Athlete from Sports or Being an Advocate for Others with Developmental Disabilities

Posted by Wendy Bigham August 18, 1:30 p.m.

Bowling at the upcoming State Masters Bowling Tournament in Warner Robins even though Nandi has a visual impairment is only a part of her becoming a trailblazer for people with developmental disabilities.

Macon athlete Nandi will be among 1,000 athletes competing Aug. 22nd-24th at Special Olympics Georgia’s State Masters Bowling in Warner Robins.

“I don’t know how she does it. She’s visually impaired so you really don’t know what she is seeing,” said her Mom Nalini. But she still gets in the lane, uses the proper bowling form and bowls.

“If it’s a strike, she jumps up and down and tells the whole crowd about it!” Nalini said. And, when she doesn’t, she uses the teamwork skills she’s learned through Special Olympics Georgia and goes to her teammates to encourage them.

Not only does Nandi have courage as a visually impaired person competing in sports (She is also an equestrian.) but she is also among the few Special Olympics athletes who are also advocates for themselves and others with intellectual disabilities.

“Special Olympics is what provided her the confidence to speak on others’ behalf,” Nalini said.

A graduate of the GA Academy for the Blind, Nandi is already serves on several advisory councils. One example is her becoming a “partner in policymaking after completing training in Peer to Peer supports.

Earlier this month, Nandi Isaac completed training to become an engaged board member in My Voice. My Participation. My Board. Training, through Georgia State University’s

Center for Leadership in Disability, Community Connection, Youth Leadership. Next month, she will talk about the importance of advocacy and how Medicaid waivers help people with developmental disabilities live full lives in the community at the Annual Parent Mentor Conference, presented by Georgia’s Department of Education, Division for Special Education Services and Supports in Athens, Ga. She will speak alongside Darlene Meaders of Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities.

Putting her knowledge of advocacy work, Nandi volunteers on the weekends with Macon’s Roving Listeners’ project by serving meals and being a listener in communities where there is a high rate of youth violence.

In addition to her advocacy work, she also aims to help people save important photos that preserve her customers’ memories. Called “Help People SAVE Their Memories,” through her microenterprise SCANwithNAN, Nandi scans folks favorite photos and saves them on disks, photo galleries or on “the cloud” at a small charge. You can reach Nandi Isaac at: Scanwithnan@gmail.com, or on Facebook Scanwithnan.


Men’s Wearhouse Presents $4,000 check to Special Olympics Georgia

Posted by Susan Skolnick August 14, 1:38 p.m.

Thank you Men’s Wearhouse for your longtime friendship to Special Olympics Georgia athletes and the State Summer Games! Because of your hands-on involvement and financial support, children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Georgia have been given opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

The Winner Results Are In!

The winners of Friday’s six luckiest yellow rubber ducks in Georgia are:

First place: John T. won a IPhone 5c 16 GB.

Second place: Martha P. won .55 Carat Diamond Stud Earrings on 14K White Gold, courtesy of Dynasty Jewelry and Loan.

Third place: Greg P. won Six Flags White Water Family Ticket Package, courtesy of Six Flags White Water.

Fourth place: Hallie E. won a Surface RT Tablet 32 GB.

Fifth place: Will S. won a $300 Publix Gift Card.

Sixth place: Judy C. $150 QuikTrip Gift Card, courtesy of QuikTrip.


Congratulations Lewis Gordon for being named Volunteer of the Month of August

Posted by Whitney Warren August 6, 6:11 p.m.

Valdosta’s Lewis Gordon volunteers at a SOGA staff office and is an athlete who continues to accomplish much in Special Olympics. He volunteers with his whole heart and tries his best to inspire others.

Competing each year since he was 8, Lewis still competes in softball, volleyball, floor hockey, and bowling. He says he has grown as a person through meeting people, accomplishing goals, and traveling the country. (In the picture to the right, Lewis is shown standing in front of the nation’s capitol while traveling with Special Olympics International.) Lewis has always shown support for his teammates and fellow SOGA athletes, and is constantly encouraging other athletes to do their best.

He volunteers with his whole heart and tries his best to inspire others.

At the SOGA office, he has shown incredible leadership skills and is always willing to try new tasks. Whether it be counting and organizing medals for awards, or organizing files and making copies, Lewis is always willing to tackle whatever jobs his position requires.

He not only shows leadership skills, but he constantly has a fantastic, hard-working attitude no matter what he’s working on. On his first day at the office, he said ‘I just want to do all I can to make Special Olympics Georgia the best organization that it can possibly be, says one SOGA staff member.’ Thank you, Lewis!


SOGA at Emory - May 2012








Athlete of the Month: Clay Doub

Posted by Whitney Warren August 6, 4:33 p.m.

Valdosta Athlete Clay Doub shines a light throughout the community by showing how you can overcome obstacles and succeed.

Born with Fragile X Syndrome, the lifelong athlete has influenced and befriended so many because of his sense of team and strong support network of family and friends. These factors have helped him develop socially, stay determined, and have respect for others.

Some of his accomplishments are:

-In 1995, he received the prestigious Naismith Award for Special Olympics.

-He received the 1998 Achievement Award from the Valdosta Mayor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities.

-In 2006, he represented Team Georgia at the Special Olympics USA Games, where he won two gold medals in the breaststroke and four-person relay.

-At the World Games in 2009, Clay came home with the bronze in floor hockey.

Through it all, Clay continues to be a wonderful example of how SOGA athletes can continue pushing forward with a good attitude and a determined spirit.

Today, Clay lives independently and is a custodian with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority and remains an active athlete. Congratulations, Clay, for being Athlete of the Month.


Fearless Attitude Pushes Athlete to Try New Adventures and Uplift Others

Posted by Charles White July 3, 10:00 a.m.

You can look to Suzanne Goossens for an example of what Project Unify and Special Olympics truly means.

She swims with the Extra Special People Pirhanas, but when she isn’t competing, she encourages her friends to work harder and improve each day. The fearless attitude is a testament to the dedication the Oconee/Clarke County athlete has given through Special Olympics over the past 10 years, in not only sports, but by encouraging her friends with and without intellectual disabilities.

Suzanne is enthusiastic about life and loves learning new things! Some of Suzanne’s favorite things to do (besides swimming) include water skiing, boating, and hanging out at her lake house with her family.

She also enjoys zip lining, skydiving, and wall climbing. This May, Suzanne won a gold medal at State Summer Games.

Congratulations to Suzanne for winning the gold and being named Athlete of the Month!

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Watch Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. (eastern time) June 30 for a USA Games Special

Posted by Wendy Bigham June 27, 8:11 a.m.

Tune in to FOX Sports 1 at 7PM ET on June 30 to watch “Celebrating Champions,” a one-hour TV event that will recap the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, recently held in New Jersey. The show will highlight competition, ceremonies, special events, Special Olympics initiatives, and most importantly, will show the Games through the eyes of the athletes themselves. We thank USA Games Founding Partners 21st Century Fox and WWE for making this first-ever nationally broadcast recap show possible. Tell everyone you know to tune in! See a sneak peek now: http://goo.gl/4IADXn


Team Georgia’s Results Are In!

Posted by Wendy Bigham June 25, 2014 5:01 p.m.

Still settling in back home after a week of firsts and successes, Team Georgia has a lot of good to reflect upon: from athletes flying out on private planes thanks to the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, enjoying Opening Ceremony being emceed by Brooklyn Decker and Michael Carter-Williams, watching some entertainment from the cast of Wicked and WWE Superstars, including The Big Show; to winning medals, ribbons and making friends.

Every member of Team Georgia came home from USA Games with at least one medal and many received more than one. Below is a full list of Team Georgia results.

Bocce – Traditional Singles

Melissa Dodgen of Henry County: Bronze

Tyechia Luster of Albany: Bronze

June Morseberger of Gwinnett Masters: Gold

Diane Hill of Gwinnett Masters: Silver

Bocce – Traditional Doubles

Melissa Dodgen of Henry County and Tyechia Luster of Albany: Silver

Diane Hill and June Morseberger of Gwinnett County: Silver

Bocce – Traditional Team

Melissa, Diane, Tyechia, and June: Bronze

Athletics – 100m Run:

Dejonna Colbert of Dekalb County: 5th

Skyler Corliss of Forsyth County: Silver

Daley Fitzpatrick of Forsyth County: 4th

Athletics – 400m Run:

Daley Fitzpatrick of Forsyth County: Gold

Skyler Corliss of Forsyth County: 5th

Athletics – Women’s Mini Javelin

Dejonna Colbert – Bronze

Athletics – 200m Run:

Daley Fitzpatrick: Silver

Skyler Corliss: Bronze

Dejonna Colbert: Participation (DQ’d for changing lanes) Would have gotten bronze

Cycling- 15K Road Race

Justin Wasil of Coweta County: Silver

Forest Bolton of Coweta County: 6th

Cycling- 5K Road Race

Justin Wasil of Coweta County: Gold

Forest Bolton of Coweta County: Bronze

Cycling – 10K Road Race

Justin Wasil: Gold

Forest Bolton: Bronze

Tennis – Singles

Bayley Bristow of Special Pops: Gold

Brittney Hagelthorn of Special Pops: Gold

Jamie Gillispie of Special Pops: Gold

Tennis – Unified Doubles

Brittney Hagelthorn and Mandy Conner of Henry County: Bronze

Jamie Gillispie and Debbie Currie of Special Pops: Bronze

Bayley Bristow and Valerie Mercier: Silver

Bowling – Singles

Mackenzie Green of Dalton-Whitfield County: Silver

Tarcia Keys of Henry County: Silver

Bowling – Unified Doubles

Mackenzie Green and Diane Green of Dalton-Whitfield County: Fourth

Davina Ford and Tarcia Keys of Henry County: Silver

Bowling – Unified Team

Mackenzie Green, Diane Green of Dalton-Whitfield County, Tarcia Keys and Davina Ford of Henry County: Gold


Go Team Georgia! Team Georgia Rack Up Wins and Good Memories

Posted by Wendy Bigham June 20, 2014 10:25 a.m.

Here are more Team Georgia results and photos over the last two days from Princeton:

-Davina Ford and Tarcia Keys, of Henry County, won 2nd in unified bowling.

-Daley Fitzpatrick, of Forsyth County, won 1st place in the 400m run.

-Bayley Bristow and Valerie Mercier, of Atlanta, won 2nd place in unified tennis.

-Skyler Corliss, of Forsyth County, won 5th place in the 400m run.

-Brittney and Mandy Hagelthorn, of Henry County, won third place in unified tennis.

-Jamie Gillispie and Debbie Currie, of Atlanta, won 3rd place in unified tennis.

-Mackenzie Green and Diane Green, of Dalton, won 4th place in unified bowling.

-Mackenzie Green, of Dalton, won 2nd place in singles bowling.

-Melissa Dodgen, of Henry County, and Tyechia Luster, of Albany, won 2nd place in their traditional bocce doubles.

-June Morseberger and Diane Hill, of Gwinnett County, won 2nd place in traditional bocce doubles.

Check out SOGA’s Michael Wilson’s updates Team Georgia’s Twitter page at @2014TeamSOGA.

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Team Georgia Kick Competition in High Gear Today

Posted by Wendy Bigham June 17, 2014, 10:17 a.m.

Tuesday’s update from SOGA staffer Michael Wilson at USA Games in Princeton:

Our bocce teams won their first matches this morning. Melissa Dodgen, of Henry County, and Tyechia Luster of Albany, 10-8 and June Morseberger and Diane Hill, of Gwinnett County, 13-3. They’ll play again this afternoon.

Mackenzie Green and Tarcia Keys are bowling in singles finals this morning and are doing a great job.

Justin Wasil won 1st place and Forest Bolton won 3rd place in the 5K road race. Athletics competitions are still in prelims. Monday’s competitions were also preliminaries.

Check out photos from Monday and Tuesday:

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State Summer Games Photos are Here!

Posted by Wendy Bigham June 13, 2014

While the athletes competed at State Summer Games, three professional photographer volunteers captured the images of athletes doing their personal best; getting hugs from coaches; and on the medal stand. Here are two photographers’ photo galleries for you to check out:

J. David DiCristina of Dry Branch Photography (Aquatics, Flag Football, Soccer)

Brad Newton of Brad Newton Photography (Opening Ceremony, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Tennis, and Volleyball)



June’s Volunteer of the Month: Kevin Enright

Posted by David Crawford June 5, 2014

Kevin Enright, of Augusta, is the true definition of a dedicated volunteer.

Over the last 19 years, Kevin has been the local coordinator for the Augusta Stars Special Olympics agency; a certified head coach in many sports; a Unified Partner; sports clinician; Camp Inspire volunteer; games evaluation team member; bocce rules official; and most importantly, a parent of a Special Olympics athlete.

In 2003, Kevin traveled with Team USA to Ireland for World Games, serving as the Southeast Bocce Coach. Kevin has taken his agency to numerous Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons games. In the process, he met several professional players; including former Atlanta Brave outfielder B.J. Surhoff, who played catch with his athletes.

Through it all, Kevin has said he wouldn’t change anything because he gets to see every day how the athletes’ abilities change the general public’s perception of intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics Georgia is truly honored to name Kevin Enright as the Volunteer of the Month!


Athlete of the Month: Karen Busby

Posted by Jake Strother June 5, 2014

Karen Busby is June’s athlete of the month. She began participating in Special Olympics in 2009 and recently joined one of SOGA’s newer agencies: Gwinnett Special Forces. Karen, 62, has participated in bocce (unified and traditional teams) bowling, and basketball team skills.

Last weekend, she participated in the 100 meter race walk and shot put at State Summer Games. Throughout her career, Karen has won many medals and honors with Gwinnett Masters and Gwinnett Special Forces. And she improves every year.

During the past two years alone, she has won 1 gold medal, 7 silver medals, and 1 bronze medal. In fact, for the past two years, she has gotten a better bocce score than her Special Olympics coach who sometimes competes with her, earning her bragging rights throughout the fall bocce season.

Karen is very active with her church and family; lives with her daughter and son-in-law (June and Dwayne) and 3 granddaughters; and enjoys gardening, walking, and retro TV shows. We are very proud of her accomplishments, and it is a great pleasure to honor her as athlete of the month.


Layne Heavy Civil holds annual Golf Outing to benefit Special Olympics Georgia

Posted by Susan Skolnick June 3, 2014

Layne Heavy Civil held its annual Golf Outing at Cherokee Run Golf Club on Thursday, May 29th. This was the 4th consecutive year that Special Olympics Georgia was the beneficiary of the event. A huge thank you to all of the sponsors and golfers, and especially to everyone at Layne who helped plan, organize, and run the golf outing. We are honored that Layne Heavy Civil is a part of the Special Olympics Georgia family, and we are extremely appreciative for Layne’s dedication to helping us celebrate our athletes’ achievements and strengths!


SuperValu/Food Depot 15th Annual Golf Classic Benefits

Special Olympics Georgia

Posted by Susan Skolnick May 22, 2014

The SuperValu/Food Depot 15th Annual Special Olympics Georgia Golf Classic was May 21st at Mirror Lake Golf Club in Villa Rica. Over 80 golfers participated, including Special Olympics Georgia athletes Garry Bradley, Eric Estes, and Scott Holcombe from Carrollton Parks & Recreation. SuperValu is the longtime Gymnastics Sponsor at State Summer Games, and their employees will be out in full-force on May 31st helping at the venue and cheering on the athletes. Special Olympics Georgia values our partnership with SuperValu and relies on its generosity and support in helping us fulfill our mission and continue to grow – thank you SuperValu!


Seven Hills Homeowners Association Holds First Charity Event Weekend for Special Olympics Athletes

Posted by Susan Skolnick May 20, 2014

Seven Hills Homeowners Association, Inc. held its 1st Annual Charity Event Weekend benefiting Special Olympics Georgia May 16th and May 17th. Events included a cornhole tournament, tennis tournament, 5K and 10K races, silent auction, and more. Special Olympics Georgia athletes Brittany Bishop, Steven Long, Kelly Kettles, and Bily Rice also played in a tennis exhibition with Seven Hills members and tennis pros. Seven Hills’ support and generosity are greatly appreciated, and it is an honor to be a part of the Seven Hills family. Thank you Seven Hills for believing in our athletes and for helping them to believe in themselves!


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Long-time Special Olympics Coach Brings Rookie But Ready Team to State Summer Games for Flag Football

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 16, 2014

Coach Len Orenstein will bring his Gwinnett Giants to their first season of flag-football at State Summer Games at Emory. Might be their first season, but they’re ready.

“He’s firm but loving. He treats them as adults, because they are,” says his wife Heather.

Lyn has been a Special Olympics coach for at least the last 10 years, beginning with the program in Pennsylvania then in Georgia when he and his family moved here in 2006. His flag-football team have relational autistic tendencies with some who have lost some muscle tone. In preparation for games, Len separates the team into small groups at practices on Sunday afternoons for learning skills needed in flag-football.

“SOGA is the center of our worlds,” Heather says. That’s partly because their son David is an athlete on his team. David is looking to add another medal to his collection. Sports and competiveness is such a large part of the Orensteins’ lives. So, it works.

Lyn and David do 5Ks together – most recently a race that benefited Wounded Warrior. They watch sports and talk sports at the dinner table. Obviously, Lyn and David are a great father/son and coach/athlete match. “He [David] loves it that he’s best friends with his Dad,” she says.

The team, as a whole, is an addition to their family, complete with younger son Joel, 15. The Orensteins transport a handful number of athletes back and forth to practice. For the time and energy Special Olympics takes up for the family, they have adjusted their lives accordingly.

They do it gladly, however, because the outcome is so much greater than the challenges. “To them, it’s so much more than a sport,” she says.


Meet Ryan Young: State Summer Games Soccer Play Soon-to-be College Student

Posted by: Wendy Bigham May 16, 2014

As Ryan Young’s soccer team called “Chaos” prepares drills for State Summer Games competitions coming up May 30-June 1 at Emory University.

The Carrollton athlete prepares for a life-changing challenge coming months later to live on campus as a college student at Kennesaw State University. The program is called the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, which is offered to 10 students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who do not meet the university requirements for admission as a degree seeking student. Ryan and classmates are enrolled in typical university courses alongside degree seeking students and includes social integration, career exploration and training.

“ I feel like I can do a lot,” Ryan says of how Special Olympics prepared him for this two-year college program. “SOGA gave me a chance to be skilled and to see that there are no limits to what I can do.” He will play soccer at State Summer Games and hopes to win that ninth gold medal with his team.

And, similarly he expects the academy to expand on skills already learned that will help him down the road. He’ll have a roommate, have a job supported by a career coach, and take classes that will help him secure a permanent job.

For example, Ryan sees himself in a forensics career. His top choices are Carrollton Police Department, Villa Rica Police Department and Douglasville Police Department. He pictures himself riding up on a scene in one of the CSI vehicles. “I like crime stuff. It’s easier for me to see something than others.”

After State Summer Games, Ryan will be on a hiatus of Special Olympics until the Kennesaw program ends.



2015 World Games Athlete Nominations Now Being Accepted; Packets Due Friday, June 27th

Posted by: Wendy Bigham May 15, 2014

Nominate an athlete to participate in the World Games to be held in Los Angeles July 22nd-August 2nd, 2015. The sports are aquatics, equestrian, artistic gymnastics, kayaking and sailing team unified. Nominations are due June 27th.

Athletes are eligible if they have participated and received medals in 2014 State Summer Games Aquatics, 2013 State Horse Show, 2014 State Winter Games Artistic Gymnastics, 2013 State Kayaking / Sailing. Athletes that have NEVER been to World Games will be considered before those that have. Learn more about the nomination process. Selected athletes will be notified by July 15th, 2014.


GEICO Donates $68,750 to Special Olympics Georgia

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 9, 2014

On May 8th, GEICO held a check presentation ceremony and presented Special Olympics Georgia and Area 7 with an extremely generous donation of $68,750 from their 1-Mile Walk in March. Area 7 athlete Jackie Lindsey spoke, and the Georgia Academy for the Blind Girls Ensemble performed two inspirational songs. Thank you GEICO for your friendship, commitment, and dedication to Special Olympics Georgia athletes!



SOGA Benefits From New Kayak Race at Lanier Canoe

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 9, 2014

The 1st Annual Kayak Trader Challenge Race, coordinated by KayakTrader.com, took place May 3rd at Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. Special Olympics Georgia was selected as the beneficiary charity, with $10 of each boat entry for the event being donated to SOGA. Thank you KayakTrader.com for inviting SOGA to be a part of this great event, and we look forward to having some of our athletes compete in the race next year!


Annandale Athletes Learn Softball Skills from Georgia State University Softball Team

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 7, 2014

Special Olympics athletes from Annandale Village in Suwanee ran through a few softball skills Friday, May 2 at the Georgia State University game against at Western Kentucky at the Heck Softball Complex. Afterward the athletes posed for photos with the players.



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Cobb County Volunteer Works With SOGA Athletes as His Bar Mitzvah Project

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 6, 2014

-Excerpt from Andrew Feld’s speech at his recent Bar Mitzvah

For my Bar Mitzvah project, I helped coach a special Olympic basketball team for the Special Olympics in January. The first two Tuesdays were evaluations, which helped the coaches pick the teams. After those two Tuesdays, I was told I would help coach a team named the Cobb Mavericks every Tuesday from October to January.

I chose to volunteer for the Special Olympics for my Bar Mitzvah project because I wanted to help the special Olympic athletes improve their basketball skills and make a difference in their lives. My goal was to make an impression on these athletes and to show them that they are no different than anyone else just because they have a disability. I tried to encourage them to always do their best and to never give up.

One of the most outgoing players on the team was C.J. He had a stroke when he was an infant that paralyzed his right arm, and slurred his speech. CJ is a huge inspiration to me because he has gone through so many obstacles in his life; yet, he lives life to the fullest and never gives up.

Although I feel like I accomplished my goal of making an impression on these athletes and showing them that they are no different than anyone else, it turns out that these athletes probably made a bigger impression on me. They taught me to never take anything for granted. They taught me that I can overcome obstacles thrown in front of me. They taught me to live life to the fullest. And most importantly, they taught me how to be a better person.

The “Chaos” Seeks Second Gold at Summer Games

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 1, 2014

Named “Chaos” for being quick to score points on the soccer field, the Carrollton team plans to win another gold at the State Summer Games May 30th-June 1st at Emory University.
“We like to make other teams afraid of us, like thunder and lightening,” said Athlete Ryan Young. To help make that happen, Ryan and his teammates are practicing twice a week on blocking, stealing, and shooting the ball.
Ryan will be one of nearly 3,000 athletes, coaches and unified partners to participate in State Summer Games, which is anticipated to be SOGA’s largest State Games ever. The sports offered this year are aquatics, athletics, flag-football, gymnastics, long distance walking and running, soccer, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball. Opening Ceremony will be 7:30 p.m. Friday.
To athletes and coaches: Check out the free Special Smiles, Opening Eyes and Fit Feet Healthy Athletes offerings at Summer Games. There will be give-aways, including new prescription glasses. The screenings will be open from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Olympic Town and in the Woodruff PE Center.

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May’s Athlete of the Month: Elena Weaver

Posted by Wendy Bigham May 1, 2014

Born with devastating multiple birth defects, there was little hope for a long and normal life. But her family fought for her and she began to respond positively to surgeries and therapies. As she grew stronger and celebrated more birthdays, her parents discovered Elena had dreams about what she would like to do and accomplish in her life!

One dream was to become a gymnast. Elena found a gym program and her family helped out at the gym for lessons. Eventually her dad became her certified Special Olympics coach and her mom became the photographer, cheerleader, and costume maker. She competed in artistic gymnastics and became a state champion with the Level 4 status.

Now she has learned and competes in rhythmic gymnastics – achieving Level 4 status as a state, national and world champion. She has led her family throughout the U.S.A. and to other countries for competitions.

As Elena gained strength and accomplishments, her family became stronger, more united and more committed to helping other families believe in their exceptional children.

Congratulations, Elena, for being named Athlete of the Month! – By David Crawford



Tennis and a Pizza Party for Special Olympics Georgia Paulding County Athletes; Charity Weekend in Two Weeks

Posted by: Wendy Bigham April 28, 2014

Thank you Seven Hills Homeowners Association, Inc., for hosting an afternoon of tennis instruction and a pizza party for Special Olympics Georgia Paulding County athletes and their families last Friday! We definitely appreciate all of the junior tennis players, homeowners, and tennis pros volunteering their time to teach the athletes some beginning tennis skills. We look forward to a great charity event weekend May 16th – 17th.



Athletes Learn Tennis Skills From the Finest at the Dunwoody Country Club

Posted by: Wendy Bigham April 28, 2014

On April 25th, 100 athletes participated in the annual Dunwoody Country Club Special Olympics Georgia Fun Day on the tennis courts. All of the athletes had a great time and definitely enjoyed the tennis instruction and meeting all of the tennis pros and club member volunteers. Thank you Dunwoody Country Club for continuing to make a difference in our athletes’ lives!


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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

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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!

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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”!


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

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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 whitney.warren@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



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!


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



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.