The following is a guest post from Harrison Long, a Special Olympics Florida volunteer and student at Palm Harbor University High School in Florida.
This may create uneasiness while reading, but I have to be candid to share my story. We have all been around that “cool kid” who uses words like crippled, handicapped, slow, stupid or retarded to address an individual with a disability. I am embarrassed to say, when I was younger I may have been one of those kids too. I was one of those people who saw the disability before I saw the actual person. I was quick to make the assumption; these kids are inept and incapable. I had friends who would poke fun at these individuals. I wasn’t strong enough to put a stop to it or maybe I just wasn’t impassioned enough to do so. However, that all changed for me in middle school when a powerful experience helped me recognize who the “cool kids” really were. Read More
Fifteen year-old Javier is from Osceola County and looked forward to attending State Aquatics competition in Sebastian with 16 other athletes from his county. With nearly 400 athletes competing throughout the weekend it was one of the largest swim competitions Special Olympics Florida ever hosted.
Together, his team took home several medals and not only did Javier earn two gold medals but his four person unified relay team also took home a silver! Even though winning medals is fun, Javier shares that his favorite part of the competition was swimming his personal best during the 400m individual medley.
The event was made even more special as he had his mom, sisters, aunt and uncle there to cheer him on! We’re excited to celebrate Javier and all the athletes who came out to demonstrate their skill and commitment to swimming.
In 2013, the Misso family relocated from Chicago to Lee County, Florida. Perry & Mickey’s daughter, Kara, had been involved with Special Olympics for 20+ years back home and they wanted to continue that tradition when they moved. So like many people do, they Googled Special Olympics Florida and found their local County Directory. When they asked how much it would be for Kara to join, they learned that no one is ever charged a fee to participate – from that moment they were all in with Special Olympics Florida.
Every two years, Special Olympics athletes come together to compete at the Special Olympics World Games. This summer, over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries will descend upon Los Angeles to show the true meaning of courage, joy and determination. Special Olympics Florida is proud to have 16 athletes represent the USA at this competition – below are their stories.
Special Olympics USA’s Unified Soccer Team from Florida played a very impressive game against Liechtenstein today. Despite Liechtenstein’s lead, the USA gave it their all and had a great comeback in the second half. “I think our best thing about that game was that we didn’t keep our heads down,” said Haley. The game finished with a close score of five to four with Lichtenstein claiming the victory. However, the USA is not phased and is ready to play the Czech Republic tomorrow. “We just have to play tomorrow like we played the second half today and we’ll be okay,” said Cameron. Read More
Special Olympics Florida athlete Jonathan Doring is no stranger to winning medals, and after 37 months of hard work this unique athlete is on the precipice of earning the one million points needed to receive the Presidential Champions Platinum Award. The Presidential Champions winner’s list is sprinkled with the names of military personnel, medical doctors and an occasional Grand Master of martial arts – quite a club that Doring will proudly join. While it’s taken 37 months for him to reach his goal, he’s really picked up the pace over the last year. Read More
Each year, more than 4,000 South Florida athletes with intellectual disabilities compete in 17 different Special Olympics sports, including soccer, basketball, football and bowling. Although sports physicals are an important prerequisite for children who play competitive sports, people with intellectual disabilities face many roadblocks, such as lack of transportation and costs, when it comes to health physicals and preventive care. Read More
This is a guest post from Sherry Wheelock, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO.
As we near the end of 2014, it is with great enthusiasm that I share my gratitude for your achievements in our community. Our entire team, including athletes, coaches, volunteers, mentors, staff, law enforcement, sponsors and Unified Partners, has created a culture of sharing that has strengthened our movement. We have shared best practices for quality in our training and competitions, we have shared our program with thousands of new athletes and volunteers, we have discovered supporters who share in our mission, and as a result we participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship that defines the mission of Special Olympics. Read More
October is National Bullying Prevention month and Special Olympics Florida is proud to share that we are actively addressing this nationwide issue. Through Project UNIFY, Special Olympics Florida uses sports and education-based outreach programs to foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Bringing together people with and without disabilities, Project UNIFY engages entire school bodies to foster attitudes of acceptance and inclusive environments. Earlier this year, we successfully introduced Project UNIFY in over 30 schools across Florida.
As we move into fall, our growth continues to make an impact as we work to build communities of acceptance. Throughout our 67 counties, we’ve added 60 new sport opportunities, including Surfing and Stand-Up-Paddle. Our Young Athletes program also hit a milestone and now serves over 5,000 athletes since its start 5 years ago. We also delivered over 7,000 free healthcare screenings and we continue to see the number of volunteers, coaches and athlete leaders grow.
We celebrate each person who joins the Special Olympics movement because this growth means that our athletes have more opportunities to demonstrate their abilities on and off the playing field. Our work today is more relevant and necessary than ever before. With an athlete and volunteer base 50,000 strong, we look forward to continue positively impacting our great state of Florida. If you are not already part of our team, we would be honored to add your unique skills and attributes to our growing mission.
As a team, we can make a difference.
March is a significant month for the Special Olympics movement. During March, we participate in the R-Word Campaign (March 5th) as well as Capitol Hill Day (March 12th) – two important events that come together and create a nation-wide platform for our collective voices.
Raising awareness for people-first language has always been a priority for Special Olympics Florida. That’s because Special Olympics is more than just sports. With a focus on physical, social and emotional development through sports, wellness and leadership training, Special Olympics Florida is part of a global movement dedicated to bringing tolerance and acceptance that will unify the world. Read More
What’s your New Year resolution? Losing weight and getting healthy might be at the top of your list – but at Special Olympics Florida, the health of our athletes is a focus 365 days a year. With the help of 1,200 volunteer health care professionals and students, Special Olympics Florida has made a resolution for the New Year to continue to improve health services available to all people with intellectual disabilities. Read More