Michael has been in Special Olympics for nearly two decades, and it has helped him build strength, make friends, learn responsibility and develop confidence. Now, Michael applies these skills in his daily life and at work.
A Life in Balance
Michael started playing Special Olympics basketball and soccer at an early age. His parents also signed him up for gymnastics to help with his low muscle tone – a condition that is often associated with Down syndrome. After Michael did an impromptu cartwheel across the basketball court, someone suggested that he make gymnastics his primary focus. Though Michael still enjoys participating in other sports, gymnastics has been his main sport ever since. Michael trains hard and it pays off. He has countless medals from events and was even selected to represent Team Virginia in gymnastics at the 2006 Special Olympics U.S. National Games in Iowa. Attending the games was one of the most memorable and proudest times of his life. It was a chance to meet other athletes from all across the country and to travel independently with the team.
Beyond the Bleachers
Although the family loves to watch Michael compete, their involvement extends beyond the bleachers. Michael’s dad has volunteered as a Special Olympics coach and chaperone for years. Younger brother Matthew, currently away at college, comes home to cheer at basketball practices whenever he can. Both brothers enjoy shooting baskets together. Michael’s dad (also named Michael) shared how much his son looks forward to events and how much excitement competitions bring to his life. More importantly, he says, Special Olympics has given his son the chance to build confidence and to make lifelong friends.
Sports Influences Worklife
These days, Michael juggles a busy schedule, learning to balance work and sports. For nearly four years, Michael has been working as a Courtesy Clerk at Safeway. He takes pride in his work and has even received employee awards. According to his dad, the independence and responsibility gained through participation in Special Olympics has carried over into his son’s professional life. What amazes the elder Michael is the inclusive spirit of Special Olympics. “It’s touching. Win or lose, people try to do their best. Sure, you are competitive but even if you lose, you hug your opponent.” He explains, “It’s a wonderful organization. There are a lot of athletes with different abilities and Special Olympics does a first-rate job of putting on programs for all different skill levels.”
What You Can Do
For every proud athlete like Michael, there are still many more we have not yet reached. Support Special Olympics and help us give the power of sport to more people with intellectual disabilities.