Volunteers of Special Olympics Florida

Special Olympics is about transforming lives, including your own. It is about a spirit of giving and teamwork. It is about making your community and neighborhood a more welcoming and accepting place for people of all abilities.  It is also about creating lifelong friendships and finding a new way of thinking about others.  Our volunteers include the local coach who works with athletes many times a week, the people who help organize and plan our local and state competitions or the photographers who take the most amazing pictures of our athletes in action.  All around Florida, Special Olympics training, competitions and fundraising events are happening 365 days a year.  Here are some of their stories. 


Amanda Baar
Unified Partner and Coach
Manatee County

Eighteen years ago my youngest brother, Joey, was born with Down syndrome. Even though I am his big sister, he has taught me more in life than I could ever teach him. I have loved watching him play basketball, bowling, and tennis.  He inspired me to become a Special Olympics Florida volunteer two years ago when I moved home from college. I would soon realize how much Special Olympics would positively impact my life.  Read more…


Marci McAdams
Trainer and Games Management Team
Columbia County

Fourteen years ago I answered a call from our County Director.  He was looking for volunteers to help with our County Summer Games.  The moment I stepped on the field that day, I knew that it was my opportunity to give back to this amazing organization that offered opportunities to athletes that might not ever have an opportunity to participate in the sports they love.   Read more…


Jennifer Barber
Certified Coach & Management Team Member, Walton County

I first got involved in Special Olympics after an amazing Special Olympics coach, Donna Qualitiere from Longleaf Elementary School in Pasco County, taught my son Jeffrey how to ride a bike. My husband nor myself, no matter how much we tried, could teach Jeffrey how to ride, but she could.  She wanted to show Jeffrey how to ride a bike, not just because his twin brother asked her to teach him, but also, so he could start competing in cycling.   Read more…


Daniel Mueller
Soccer Coach
Palm Beach County

This is my second year volunteering as a unified soccer team coach for Special Olympics Florida – Palm Beach County.  I have been coaching for about 10 years off and on with high school and travel clubs.  What really inspired me, was one day when I was getting done with training, I saw a friend of mine who played soccer.  Read more…


Paul Sallarulo
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.  Read more…


Jeffrey Sones
Motor Activity Training Program Coordinator
Miami-Dade County

I teach Adaptive Physical Education to forty intellectually disabled students ranging in ages from three to twenty-two years old as an Exceptional Education Teacher at Brucie Ball Educational Center. My involvement with Special Olympics goes back almost forty years when I worked at the Pinellas County Association for Retarded Citizens in St. Petersburg, FL.  Read more…


Diane Mason
Swimming Coach,
Marion County

I became associated with Special Olympics Florida while teaching at Hillcrest School for Exceptional Students in Ocala. My physical education program basically followed the Special Olympics seasons, but my favorite was always swimming. I became the assistant to the current swimming coach. When he retired, I became the head swimming coach.  Read more…


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.  Read more…


Taylor Byle
Coach
Duval County

After moving to Duval County I was excited to get back involved with Special  Olympics in a new capacity as a coach. I had volunteered in other counties in the past, but I was excited to get more personally involved with the athletes.  My goal is to increase our outreach and bring more athletic opportunities to more people.  Read more…


Karen Prewitt
Management Team Member
Duval County

I first got involved with Special Olympics when our son Caleb, born with Down syndrome, was three years old. A friend emailed me about a new program called Young Athletes, intended to get young children with differences involved in physical activity. I was all about it, having grown up loving sports.  Read more…


Phil Morphew
Coach, Parent
Hernando County

My wife and I, Sally, have two adult special needs sons.  Chris and David have been involved in many sports: basketball, bocce, bowling, soccer, swimming and golf. Through them, I have been associated with Special Olympics for over 40 years and we couldn’t be prouder. I have been an escort, Unified partner, caddy, chaperone, chauffeur, and coach. I feel as if my most important job is being a parent, there is nothing better.  Read more…


Fidel Rosas – Wells Fargo
Event Volunteer
Miami-Dade County

I’ve tried to live my life with the most positive mindset possible. I have seen my share of struggles and experiences that have helped shape the way I appreciate and approach every day. I will never forget the day that I learned why volunteering is such an essential part of living, because your life takes shape in part by how much you give.  It was an early Sunday morning in March 2014, when I participated in the first Special Olympics competition.   Read more…


Yatziri Rodriguez
Unified Partner
Polk County

I have been a Unified partner on the Ridge Community High School Unified volleyball team for four years now. Originally, I came out to volunteer with equipment, but when the team needed Unified partners both of the coaches convinced me to play for the team, and I haven’t looked back since. Our Special Olympics team is unlike any other team I have been on before.   Read more…


Colby Kitner
Unified Partner
Orange County

I was intrigued when my soccer coach, Scott Carvale, asked me to join the Olympia High School Unified team and immediately said yes. Little did I know I would be setting out to play Unified with the Orlando City Soccer Club against different Major League Soccer teams across the country. Read more…


Anthony McLoughlin and Vanessa Emerson
Coaches
Volusia County

 Vanessa and I are both extremely passionate about the population that we teach and wanted to get involved with Special Olympics. Each year, we have continued to grow our school-based programs and add additional coaches and sports to serve more of our students. Read more…


Joseph and Casey Wigand
Unified Coaches
Polk County

In middle school, I was part of one of the very first Unified Sports teams in Broward County. I continued to volunteer throughout high school and when I went off to college, I continued to volunteer for Special Olympics through events and Special Olympics Florida State Games.   Read more…


Joe Whitson
Law Enforcement Torch Run Participant
Brevard and Osceola Counties

 Since 1989, I have been a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run and was honored to serve as a Guardian of the Flame in the Final Leg.  Read more…

 


Courtney Adelman
SO College Volunteer Coordinator and Unified Partner
Miami-Dade County

“I will never forget something that happened many years ago. My brother Evan approached a group of kids who were outside playing. Evan wanted to join in the fun. Noticing the rejection from the crowd, I walked over to see what was going on and it turned out the group didn’t want to play with my brother. They called him “annoying.” Annoying is the word they used to describe my brother’s Down Syndrome.  Read more…


Mardee Rath-Eamilao
Chair, Athlete Leadership
Monroe County

My volunteer experience with Special Olympics began when my son was required to do community service for extra credit in 7th grade. When we strolled onto the cycling and bocce practice track for the first time, we were welcomed with open arms by the coaches as well as the athletes. Thus, began our 9 year participation in volunteering!  Read more…


Nicole Edwards
Coach and Chair, Athlete Leadership
Broward County

 One of my favorite Special Olympic moments happened fairly recently. A couple years ago, I had a young athlete with Down Syndrome join our swim team. Her parents looked fearful; she had taken swimming lessons, but had never competed in swimming and this was her first Special Olympic sport she would’ve participated in.   Read more…


Valeria Krygier
Photographer
Miami-Dade County

Photography is more than just pressing a button on a piece of technology. It is an art that not only captures a moment but also evokes emotions. It can also be said that there are two people in every photograph: the viewer and the photographer.  Read more…


Inaya Premij
Event Volunteer
Highlands County

I recently volunteered at a Special Olympics event held at my school, All Saints Academy. I am eleven years old and I am in fifth grade. My mom and I volunteered for an Italian game called Bocce Ball. I learned how to play the game in a short time because the athletes would expect the volunteers to know the rules. Read more…


Margaret Tambini
Parent Volunteer
Volusia County

Growing up, my father and grandfather taught me to appreciate everyone for who they are and treat them with respect regardless of their background or ability. So, throughout my life, I always believed that everyone has some form of talent and an ability to be successful in their own path.  Read more…

 


Jordan Austin
Unified Partner, SO College – University of Miami
Miami-Dade County

Special Olympics is important to me as it provides me with an opportunity to get away from school, work, clinical rotations and all of the other stresses in life. For me, it is a way to not only give back to those in my community but also doing it through sports, which have played an integral part of my life up to this point.  Read more…


Betty Marshall
Volunteer County Director
Martin County

I am a retired Special Education Teacher of 38 years and have been a volunteer County Director with Special Olympics for 42 years.  I will never forget how I became a volunteer for Special Olympics Florida.   Read more…


LaNiyah Lee
Unified Partner
Leon County

I’m senior at Rickards High School, and I’m involved in a little bit of everything. I’m in the Key Club and National Honor Society. I play flag football and varsity girls basketball. I’m a finalist for the Best & Brightest Athletics Award. And I’ve helped raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network through Dance Marathon. But my favorite is being part of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools.  Read more…


Marc Colaluce
Clinical Director, Healthy Athletes Fit Feet
Pinellas County

I run my own podiatry practice in St. Petersburg, Florida where thirty percent of the patients have an intellectual or developmental disability. I wanted to give back to the community so I started working with Special Olympics Florida.  Read more…


Michael Schumacher
Parent, Coach and Management Team Member
Walton County

I am a parent of a son with autism. We moved to Walton County, FL in 2012 from Northern Virginia. My son was 13 years old at the time and we were active in Special Olympics Virginia before we moved. Shortly after arriving, I was surprised to learn that Walton County did not have an active Special Olympics program. I knew how important Special Olympics was for my son.  Read more…