Special Olympics Florida

Paula Ambrosio

Stand Up Paddle Coach, Miami-Dade County

Volunteering for Special Olympics has impacted my life in ways I could not have imagined. I started as a volunteer a few years back, when the possibility presented itself.  Stand Up Paddle was finally added as a new sport, and as an avid water sports woman, I knew this was my chance to get involved.

We were a small group of volunteers with a large group of athletes, and we had some challenges to overcome. One of our athletes particularly was having a hard time learning the sport. He struggled with his weight, balance, technique and self-esteem. We made adaptations, brought in professional paddlers to coach the team and added more time on the water. As time went by, he gained confidence, became more aware, made healthier choices and morphed into a strong athlete, always eager to learn more. We participated in various competitions, worked out harder and he never gave up.

The pinnacle of his Special Olympics career happened last year at USA Games.  I had the privilege to watch my athlete on national television as he won a gold medal in this sport. Daniel Fundora is now not only a great athlete but also a spokesperson, who advocates on behalf of Special Olympics and who has recently become the first special needs coach within our community. I’m proud to have been part of his journey and witness his transformation. I have watched him grow and inspire others within our community.

We as coaches and volunteers, are their vessels, here to support and allow them to grow into their full potential.  I’m proud to say I have been there for first smiles, first time achievements, first victory runs not only for our athletes but their parents as well.  I see incredible human beings reach their full potential, and I wouldn’t trade my time spent with Special Olympics for anything in this world.