Chair, Sallarulo’s Race for Champions, Broward County
Living in New York when I was 16, I worked alongside kids with special needs. In those days, the fallacy was that individuals with Down syndrome would not live much older than 25. I was paired up with one boy who was born with Down syndrome. At first, he asked for someone else because he could not understand my thick New York accent, but then overtime he said he missed me and we became really great friends.
Working with Special Olympics for over 45 years has been the joy of my life. When I was younger, I always thought about why I got involved. Many years later, I got my answer. My first son, Patrick, was born with Down syndrome. My previous years of experience helped me with this including more research. I found out individuals with Down syndrome could live a full happy life.
When I moved to Florida, I wanted to become more involved, raise money, and find ways to make my son feel more included. For my 50th birthday, I collected donations that also helped me fulfill one of my own personal goals which was to finish half a marathon. When I finished the race, I surpassed my fundraising goal and produced $130,000 in donations. Being overjoyed by this and in shock by how much was raised, I created a 5K called “Race for Champions” to have the community join me in support of Special Olympics Florida – Broward County. Before the race starts every year, we all say the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And then we are ready to go.
To this day, we have raised over 7 million dollars! It makes me so proud to see the change in these athletes lives everyday even after a few months of joining us.