My daughter, Amanda Church, has been involved with Special Olympics for the past 14 years. During that time she has had the opportunity to compete at the state level in Aquatics and Basketball and has won numerous Gold Medals. Additionally, Amanda had the privilege of representing our country in Aquatics on Team USA at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles in 2015 where she won a Silver and Bronze Medal. Competing in SOMA athletics has challenged Amanda to improve her skills and compete at a higher level. More importantly, it has demonstrated to her that she with drive and determination she can overcome her challenges and be successful.
More importantly, Special Olympics are a big part of Amanda’s life off the field of competition. In addition to being an athlete Amanda is also a Global Messenger. This program has provided her many opportunities to advocate for SOMA and represent the organization in the community. She has spoken at fundraising events for SOMA with Wal-Mart, Dunkin Donuts, and represented SOMA on local radio to raise awareness of the Jolly Jaunt. Additionally, she has had the opportunity to speak at many SOMA events including co-hosting the 2014 SOMA Summer Games Opening Ceremonies and the SOMA President’s Reception at Summer Games in 2008 among others.
I believe very strongly that Amanda’s participation in the SOMA Global Messenger program increased her confidence and communication skills and helped prepare her for life. Amanda currently lives independently at the LIFE program in Mashpee and works as a hostess at the 99 Restaurant in Falmouth, as well as, a receptionist in the LIFE office in Mashpee. I know her experiences with SOMA helped give her the confidence to live independently and be successful in her jobs. The SOMA Global Messenger program provides athletes the training an opportunity to build their self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills while demonstrating to the community the positive impact SOMA can have on people with disabilities.
I was pleased to see that SOMA has recently re-established the Athlete’s Advisory Council. As with the Global Messenger Program, this council allows athletes to provide feedback and ideas to continue to improve the overall experience for all athletes in SOMA. Amanda is participating as an athlete representative and I hope many other athletes do the same. Both of these programs allow participants the ability to increase their skills and grow outside of athletics. I am hopeful that more athletes take advantage of this opportunity.
Local Program Coordinator – Easton MA
By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator
It takes, on average, 4:19:27 for a male runner to cross a marathon finish line. Hank Hudepohl, however, has left that time in the dust, running the Baystate Marathon in just 3 hours and 30 minutes. It would take the average man 49 minutes just to catch with him! But Hank is anything but average, he is extraordinary.
This year Hank is dedicating his Boston Marathon journey to his brothers, who have lived lives just as extraordinary as his because of organizations like Special Olympics. “I’ve been involved with Special Olympics and with causes that aim to improve the lives of special needs adults for many years. My brothers have been able to live their lives with dignity, with respect, and with accomplishment through the help of generous organizations like Special Olympics and through their own courage and determination. It is an inspiration to bear witness to their spirit.”
Join us in celebrating as Hank runs for a personal best in support of his amazing brothers and Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Support Hank Hudepohl’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!
“Special Olympics brings sports to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play. But it’s much deeper than that. Their initiatives promote understanding, acceptance
and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts. They have helped my brother David, and other individuals, to recognize their individual strengths and to build a healthy self-esteem and sense of self-worth. As a sister, this is all I want for my brother. So I feel deeply connected to the mission of Special Olympics.”
This is why Kiely Turgeon has chosen to run the 2017 Boston Marathon for Special Olympics Massachusetts. For Kiely and her family sports has always been a part of their lives. Growing up, her younger brother David, who has autism, was not given the same opportunities she had of playing sports through the school community. That’s why Special Olympics has been so important to her and her family. “Special Olympics programs give hope for those who face adversity and challenges in situations most of us will never experience.” It is a cause that is near and dear to her heart.
Kiely, who now lives in New York City, was raised in Scituate, Massachusetts. Like many of our other runners she grew up watching the Boston Marathon and always wanted to be a part of it. “I have fond memories of watching from Comm Ave alongside my cousins, uncles and aunts and then celebrating post-race at my Uncle and Aunt’s house, located near the finish line.” With two half-marathons under her belt Kiely feels now is her time to run.
Working full-time and going to graduate school part-time has posed some challenges to her training. “It has been challenging for me to squeeze in training while maintaining everything else.” Waking at 4:00am some mornings in the freezing cold to do training runs has sometimes pushed her to her limits. “Sometimes I am at the very edge of my physical ability where my legs feel like they’re about to fall off. But I feel a passion for the bigger picture. It’s the kind of work that I’m willing to go through because I love the underlying cause of promoting the Special Olympics mission.”
We are so honored that Kiely has chosen to support Special Olympics Massachusetts in her first marathon effort. We’re inspired by her dedication and wish her the best of luck when she takes to the roads from Hopkinton to Boston on April 17th.
Support Kiely Turgeon in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!
Growing up George Tzortzis watched the Boston Marathon every year. That tradition has continued through his adult years watching with his sister (until she moved out of the country) and friends. This year his family and friends will be cheering for him on the route as he takes on his first marathon, running Boston for Special Olympics Massachusetts.
George has been running distance since high school but has only raced a handful of times in shorter distances runs. For him, “running gives me time to let loose, sometimes listen to new tunes, sometimes listen to my surroundings, but most of all time to relax.” Although he has never run a marathon before George is “super excited to be a part of a great team. The calls with tips and training plans are very helpful. Hopefully with the other runners past experiences, I will be able to ease into my first marathon as best as anyone possible could..” His training primarily involves “lots of running, split by stretching and days of rest.” What motivates him to keep up with his training is the thought of running 26.2 miles and wanting to be prepared to finish.
Why for Special Olympics? George first became involved when his neighbor asked him to join their Jolly Jaunt race team. The Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt is a fundraiser road race that takes place in December every year. When I joined “everyone was incredibly friendly from the start and exuded immense amounts of positive energy.” To him Special Olympics is about “the athletes getting together and breaking barriers and misconceptions.”
With the Special Olympics athletes as an example, breaking a personal barrier is what George wants to achieve by running his first marathon. His motto from actor James Dean, “Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today,” as well his inspiration from the athletes is what will keep George pushing toward that finish line on April 17. Best of luck to George Tzortzis as he works toward completing his first Boston Marathon!
Support George Tzortzis in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!
… which would you choose
Florida is where most beach-goers flock in March. But Michelle Nye is not your typical beach-goer. This Florida resident, instead, packed her bags and headed to Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts for her ocean vacation.
Michelle Nye (far right) and her friends the Fitzpatrick family.
Why Massachusetts in March? Nye wanted to cross something off her bucket list that had been there for years. She joined hundreds of others who braved the single digit wind chills and 41-degree water temps to jump into the Atlantic Ocean at Special Olympics Massachusetts’ annual Nantasket Beach Polar Plunge on Saturday, March 4. Nye took the icy dip in stride, “it felt like I was stung by a million bees as I was running out and lost feeling in my fingers and toes. It took them a little while to get warm again but all is good now.”
A few moments of feeling frigid was well worth leaving the warm 68 degrees at her Gotha, Florida home. Nye who grew up in Shrewsbury, MA, has been wanting to join her best friends at the Plunge for years. Monica and Jack Fitzpatrick,
who still live in Shrewsbury, first became involved with the Plunge to support their neighbor who’s active with Special Olympics. Every year for the past six years Nye has vowed to join them. This year the timing finally worked out.
Plunging Pirates Plunge team (2016).
As part of the 13 member Plunging Pirates team, Nye, the Fitzpatrick’s and the other ten members raised almost $9,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts this year. Nye believes, “If you’re going to do something like this you might as well do it for a great cause. I was glad to be able to raise money for Special Olympics.” We know that support can come from the most unexpected places. We are so thankful to all the plungers and notably Michelle Nye our warm weather plunger who braved the brutal conditions to support Special Olympics Massachusetts.
The Boston Marathon has always drawn an international crowd with over 90 countries represented each year. Athletes come from near and far come to partake in this prestigious race.
How far you ask? For Adil Nargolwala, it’s 7,129 miles. In April, Adil will journey from his home in New Delhi, India to our fine city to run the 2017 Boston Marathon. Now that’s dedication. But this devotion is not a new thing for Adil. He has always strived for greatness, participating in over one hundred half marathons and races worldwide. While that may seem like a great accomplishment to us mere mortals, Adil is about to one up it. He has set a goal of completing all six major world marathons; Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and New York City.
We here at Special Olympics Massachusetts welcome Adil and support his effort as sets out to achieve the incredible feat. And through all his hard work and training Adil would like to remind us all to “be happy and live life to the fullest.”
Support Adil Nargolwala in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!
The Boston Marathon brings out a unique sense of pride in each person who is a part of it. Maybe it’s watching the runners cross the finish line and imagining the courage and dedication it took to get there. Maybe it’s racing alongside your fellow athletes as you listen to the crowds cheer on Patriot’s Day. Or maybe it’s the selfless acts of many supporting hundreds of charities and their causes. This is what really makes the Boston Marathon so powerful, the charitable spirit behind it. Nick Bennet knows this better than anyone.
Growing up, Nick and his family would donate to different Boston charities and cheer on their teams as they crossed the Boston Marathon finish line. Now a college student at Vanderbilt University, Nick is ready to take on the challenge of running with the Special Olympics Massachusetts team and continuing the generous work of his family, for a cause that is close to his heart.
“My aunt is a special education teacher. During my summers and school breaks I’d drive to spend the day in her classroom to help out with student activities and studies. I also volunteered to help out with her school’s Special Olympic team events, most recently with their track and field team. I’ve also been assistant coach and practiced with her high school team in unified basketball and unified track.”
“I have had unbelievable opportunities to work with kids and their families through this organization, each time coming away feeling inspired by their courage and determination”
Thank you, Nick, for choosing Special Olympics Massachusetts and allowing us to come along on your Boston Marathon journey!
Support Nick Bennet in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!