For more than 12 years, Christopher has found friendship, happiness and confidence through Special Olympics. After discovering his love for bowling when he was 8 years old, nothing could stop this seasoned Special Olympics athlete when it came to joining his friends and teammates on the bowling lanes. After years of hard work, one of Christopher’s favorite memories is when he won the silver medal in bowling at the Special Olympics USA Games. That moment was made event more memorable because his medal was presented by Parker Bohn, a bowling icon and personal hero to Christopher. Today, Christopher knows that through sports he always has the chance to share his talents with the crowds.
Before Special Olympics, Richard was a student. Today, he is an athlete. Richard first became involved in Special Olympics after he received a new pair of bright yellow running shoes and a teacher encouraged him to start running. Even though he is still in middle school, Richard isn’t intimidated to compete against athletes who are bigger and have more experience. Through Special Olympics, he has gained not only lots of gold medals but also confidence and motivation. This sprinter loves hearing his parents and coaches cheering for him in the stands, fueling his determination to succeed.
Samantha has learned a lot of things through Special Olympics. After she started competing in bowling, cycling and golfing seven years ago, she realized that Special Olympics had taught her another really important lesson – to always focus on what she can do, instead of worry about what she can’t. Samantha’s training and commitment was rewarded last year when she took home a gold medal in the 5k and 10k cycling races at last year’s Special Olympics USA Games. Her discipline and training in sports has helped Samantha learn to follow rules and play as a team, leading her to become a true champion both on and off the playing field.
DeFuniak Springs, Florida
Jasmine loves any sport where she is on the water. She also loves the challenge of trying new things and making new friends, so it’s no surprise that she has embraced Special Olympics. Through Special Olympics, Jasmine has not only tried new things and made new friends but also learned about sportsmanship and what it takes to be a team player. With a love for surfing, Jasmine’s favorite Special Olympics memory isn’t about winning, but getting on her surfboard and watching other athletes smiling and having fun, knowing that they are all a part of the Special Olympics family.
After competing in Special Olympics for 15 years Jason has one very favorite sport, and that’s golf! The skills and discipline he’s gained as a seasoned Special Olympics golfer also translate off the playing field as Jason takes on leadership roles in his community. He never passes up an opportunity to speak - with a confident smile, Jason approaches any size crowd always ready to share his passion for Special Olympics. Recently, he was a guest speaker at a conference for more than 300 people but he was never afraid. Jason considers having the chance to speak and represent Special Olympics as one of his proudest moments and knows that with his confidence he will always accomplish any goal he sets his mind to.
Jane’s favorite sport is sailing, but that's only if the wind is blowing. When it's not, her second favorite sport is golf. For 32 years Jane has been at the helm of her boat, navigating the waters to win several medals. Her proudest memory is when she was in a sailing competition with a course that took nearly 2 hours to complete. Yet after more than three decades of competing in Special Olympics, Jane has lots to be proud of, including her role as a Publix Associate. Having gained confidence, recognition, respect and independence through sports, she feels pride for all of her accomplishments every day.
Ermogene ‘Geno’ Carfagna
Geno always has a smile, and that's for a good reason. Through Special Olympics, he's not only improved his skills in sports but also made lots of new friends. This Publix associate has competed in Special Olympics for 6 years, playing golf, softball, soccer, and track, but it was the hard work of his softball team that earned him the chance to compete at the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games last year. With lots of practice, teamwork and dedication, Geno is proud to have not only helped his team bring home a silver medal but also share that experience with the people he admires most: his friends, family and fellow champions.
Charlotte, North Carolina
For Chris, Special Olympics combines two of his favorite things – playing sports and hanging out with friends. So it makes sense that his favorite memory was when he got to compete with his friend and tennis partner at the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games. Together, they felt proud standing together on the victory podium after winning a silver medal at this national-level competition. After 33 years of competing in Special Olympics, Chris still has a deep passion for making friends and playing sports. Always ready to share his excitement for Special Olympics, Chris also takes pride in his volunteer work and coaching his local basketball team, sharing his talents and smile with everyone in his community.
West Palm Beach, Florida
Christina began riding horses when she was only 11 years old, and 25 years later this accomplished Special Olympics equestrian athlete is most proud of the moment she fell from her horse, but remounted with determination to finish her practice. Recently, her lifetime of perseverance and hard work was rewarded when Christina was selected to compete in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games equestrian competition. When she’s not riding horses, Christina volunteers her time at the stables doing barn work, grooming horses and helping other riders with disabilities. Competing and working with horses has not only taught Christina how to take on more responsibilities, but this Special Olympics athlete has also improved her self-esteem by sharing her passion with others.
While Daniel enjoys participating in Special Olympics competition, his favorite part is making friends and competing as a team. Special Olympics has not only provided Daniel with camaraderie and friendship but it has also given him the chance to grow his speaking skills as he promotes Special Olympics in his community. An athlete with more than 19 years of experience, Daniel has had the opportunity to be more independent as he travels to different venues to compete. This independence also helps him at his job at a local restaurant where he’s proud to have worked for 6 years. A true champion, Daniel is a leader for other athletes sharing how they can also embrace the spirit of Special Olympics.
Boynton Beach, Florida
After more than three decades of competing in Special Olympics, Kyle's favorite part of being an athlete will always be meeting new people and traveling to new places for competition. Playing his favorite sport, tennis, Kyle has gained new skills both on and off the courts, including self-confidence to pursue his dreams. His confidence helped him take home the bronze when he traveled all the way from his Florida home to compete in the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey. Armed with confidence and his signature tennis swing, there's no question that Kyle will continue impress his friends, family and fans with his abilities both on and off the tennis courts.
Matthew is an accomplished athlete who has participated in many sports, including weight lifting, flag football, golf, basketball and swimming just to name a few. Not only does Matthew enjoy Special Olympics for the sports, but also for the other opportunities it’s provided. Being in Special Olympics makes Matthew happy, helps improve his health, learn responsibility and build self-confidence – all important skills that help him share his gifts and inspire others to do the same.
Through Special Olympics Jamie has discovered her love for playing sports. For 18 years, Jamie has been an athlete who enjoys competing in many different sports but when you ask her about her favorite she’ll quickly tell you that it’s tennis, with bowling a very close second. For Jamie, each part of Special Olympics is exciting, from practice, to traveling for competitions, and being with her friends. Through her training, Jamie has also learned what it means to be a good sport. With friends, family and volunteers cheering her on, Jamie is always happy to share her talents with the crowds.
Lake Mary, Florida
With a family that is very active in sports, Maddie found that she loves participating in gymnastics through the Special Olympics Young Athlete Program. Not only has she learned tons of new gymnastics moves, but she’s also learning skills used in a lot of different sports. When she puts on her favorite tights, Maddie always has a smile on her face because she knows it means seeing her friends at practice and having her family cheer for her. Beyond sports, Maddie and her family are always proud to be involved with Special Olympics as they share in the joy it brings into their lives.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Winning medals is always nice, but for Kristin, it's the chance to make new friends that means so much more. Through Special Olympics, Kristin has done both and cherishes every memory. From playing on the tennis courts to swimming laps, she knows that hard work, determination and perseverance are all necessary if she wants to take home the gold. Even though her proudest moment was celebrating a win with her family in the stands, cheering her on this Special Olympics athlete understands the true value of sportsmanship and always sharing a positive attitude even when she doesn't win.
Coral Springs, Florida
While Amy is proud to have several silver medals in her two favorite sports, bocce and bowling, what she’s really proud of is having gained new skills, confidence and friendships through Special Olympics. In addition to competing in traditional Special Olympics sports, Amy also loves to play Unified Sports, a format that pairs athletes with and without disabilities on the same team. She even gets to play Unified Sports with one of her biggest fans - her dad! Together, they make an unstoppable team that has traveled the country to compete, always sharing their excitement for sports and celebrating their success with their fans.
As he rounds the track, you can see a look of determination on Kyle’s face – that’s because after 12 years of competing Kyle is still passionate about training hard and always doing his best. Like a lot of athletes, Kyle is always proud when he wins a competition but his favorite part of Special Olympics is new experiences and getting to try new sports. For Kyle, that means getting involved in one of Special Olympics Florida’s newest sport – stand up paddle! Knowing that Special Olympics offers more than 22 different sports year-round, whether he is running, paddling, swimming, or biking, Kyle will always be ready to inspire others with his can-do attitude.
Even though she’s only 5 years old Sophia is already very active in Special Olympics. She loves every chance she gets to see her friends, especially when it means learning fun activities like gymnastics and soccer. At practice, Sophia learns new skills like kicking, running, and jumping - but what’s even more important is that through Special Olympics, Sophia has also become more open to all social activities, she’s stronger and her coordination is always improving. Working hard at everything she does, Sophia’s family is always proud to cheer her on, and together they love celebrating every milestone with a smile.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Whether it’s swimming, softball, or soccer, Special Olympics athlete Sarah loves competing in sports with her friends. Sarah first got involved nine years ago when she saw a flier about the Special Olympics swim team and today you can still find her in the pool, practicing and training for her next competition. Even though she is most proud of bringing home her first gold medal in swimming, ask her about her favorite part of Special Olympics and Sarah will tell you that making new friends who share her enthusiasm is worth more than any medal.
Andy is the happiest guy in the world. He has an incredible family, a girlfriend, a job and because of Special Olympics, the confidence, dedication and determination to succeed. Andy began swimming 23 years ago and hasn’t stopped since. He loves participating in sports, meeting friends and becoming a leader who has traveled the world to compete. Andy has learned that because of Special Olympics, he can achieve anything, including meeting and swimming with his sports idol, Michael Phelps. With countless medals and memories representing all of his accomplishments, Andy always stands tall with pride for his incredible accomplishments.
Winter Garden, Florida
Just like his sports hero NBA player Russell Westbrook, Special Olympics athlete Tyler loves being on the basketball court. After getting involved in Special Olympics through his middle school Tyler found that he gained not only more experience playing his favorite sport but also more friends who shared his love of the game. After a year of practice, his moves on the court earned him and his team the chance to compete at the national level when they traveled together to the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games. It was the experience of a lifetime and a favorite memory for Special Olympics athlete Tyler, who enjoyed not only the comradery of the games, but also the pride in knowing he helped his basketball team bring home a silver medal.
After four years of competing in Special Olympics Greg is always excited to share that his favorite sport to play is flag football. When he isn’t competing, this football fanatic is cheering for his hometown team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Getting involved in Special Olympics provides Greg a chance to do what he loves, which not only includes playing sports, but also meeting new people and telling others about Special Olympics. Over the years, this busy athlete has also found the self-confidence to take on leadership roles, including at his current job as a Publix Associate. Whether he's on the field or working in the community, Greg always inspires everyone to embrace their inner champion.
Armed with courage and self-confidence, Brittany is a Special Olympics athlete who loves to play tennis, and the skills she’s learned on the tennis courts also translate off the court. Because of Special Olympics, Brittany has skills and courage she needs to compete and for success in everyday life. While she’s very proud of recently winning the bronze medal in tennis doubles, Brittany’s favorite memory is more than just celebrating victory – but of being part of a team with her tennis partner, who is also her sports hero. Through Special Olympics, Brittany has experienced success but knows that always trying her best looks just as good as a gold medal.
Norris is an athlete with many talents. Not only has he enjoyed competing in Special Olympics sports for more than 28 years, but he also enjoys singing and playing music. His favorite sports are flag football and basketball but he also likes competing in Special Olympics because it means being with his friends as well as making new ones. Proud of all the gold medals that he’s earned, this accomplished athlete is also proud of his hard work and the lifetime of memories he’s made with his Special Olympics friends and family.
One word Katie uses to describe Special Olympics is fun! Getting involved in a new sport and having a reason to be with her friends are other reasons she likes it, too. Katie started competing when she was 12 years old and since then has decided that swimming is her favorite sport. Over the years of being a Special Olympics athlete, Katie has learned how to be an individual, and to share with others how to focus on her abilities and not her disabilities. Over the years, she’s traveled the world to compete but is most proud of the fact that she is a Publix Associate, who also participates in public speaking and is a volunteer. Considering all of her unique skills and interests, there’s no stopping Katie from accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.
Ask Jonathan about his favorite sport and there's no hesitation in his response – it's golf, golf, golf! After joining the Special Olympics bowling team at his high school, it wasn't long before Jonathan transitioned into playing golf. Through Special Olympics Jonathan has found more than friends and fun when playing sports - he also likes surrounding himself with friends and fans who respect and accept him for his incredible ability, never focusing on his disability.
Land O Lakes, Florida
Rufus’s favorite memory isn’t of a game that he won, but of playing in a basketball tournament that his team lost. Even though they lost, Rufus knows that his team worked hard and did their best. When his team does take home a medal, whether it’s in soccer or basketball, it’s a great feeling that leaves this celebrated athlete feeling happy and proud. That’s what Special Olympics means to Rufus – playing a sport that he loves while being with his friends, no matter if they win or lose.
For three years, Cara has been participating in Special Olympics. During that time, she’s discovered self-confidence, improved her health, and learned how to play new sports, including basketball and surfing. Along the way, she’s also made lots of new friends! While she’s proud of taking home the silver medal for surfing, her favorite memory isn’t about winning the competition but of sharing the experience and cheering with friends. Through Special Olympics, Cara has not only learned how to always try her best but also how to have fun while doing it.
Delray Beach, Florida
When Ben first tried the Special Olympics Young Athlete Program, he didn’t like to run. But today, there’s no stopping him! Now, his favorite activities include running, swimming and doing obstacle courses just to name a few. For Ben and his family, participating in Special Olympics is not only a great way to introduce Ben to the sports that his family loves, but Ben is also learning other important skills like coordination, building friendships and fun ways to be active. Together with his friends and family, Ben will continue to share his excitement for learning new things while teaching others about celebrating ability through sports.
When Mark began playing soccer in middle school it opened the doors to a lifelong passion for sports. But it's his love of cycling that took him half-way around the world to compete in Special Olympics, bringing home from his trip new gold and silver medals. Whether he's bowling, cycling, rollerblading or making new friends, no matter his quest in life Mark has learned to seize each opportunity, always try his best and then make it happen.