The following is a guest post from a Special Olympics Florida volunteer, coach and Unified Partner. As a Unified Partner, athletes compete in a unique sports format that pairs together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.
My name is John Almond and I am a Special Olympics coach and Unified Golf Partner in West Palm Beach, Florida. I first became associated with Special Olympics in 2013 because of my good friend Ron who is a Management Team Member. And I’m grateful for the opportunity he has given me.
I must say, the first two years volunteering as a coach with Special Olympics was spent learning my role and meeting the athletes. Then it happened – the magic of the athletes hit me.
Every week on practice day, I would receive a wonderful greeting from the athletes. Typically, they arrive early and practice putting, laughing and cheering each other on. And when I would arrive, they always gave me high-fives and smiles from everyone. That’s a greeting that sets the mood to work hard and do the best we can for that day.
For the most recent golf season, Palm Beach County had five athletes qualify for state competition and everyone won gold in their division. The hard work and support of one another really paid off.
My Special Olympics Unified Partner is an athlete named Wesley, and we’re proud to have qualified for that state competition (for 9 hole on course play), and also proud because we won a gold medal. Earlier in the year Wesley and I had also won at local county and area competitions. I’ve learned over time that Tiger Woods is Wesley’s favorite golfer and every time he made a shot that he really liked, Wesley had the largest smile of achievement and confidence on his face. Oh, and he also would celebrate with great fist pumps as well. Wesley was so proud of his performance, and so was I.
My favorite memories of that State Golf Competition are the expressions on the faces of every athlete, their sportsmanship and their support for each other.
This experience has truly changed my life… I’m now Champion Golfer of the Year for Palm Beach County and a gold medal winner, thanks to Wesley and thanks to Special Olympics Florida.