Meet Boston Marathon Runner Jessica Colangelo

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

The number one thing on Jessica Colangelo’s colangelobucket list is running a marathon. Not just any marathon but the one every Massachusetts native grew up watching, the one every aspiring runner dreams of taking part in one day, the one and only, Boston Marathon. During her college years, Jessica would stand on the sidelines watching the runners as they raced past thousands of onlookers cheering and offering kind words of encouragement. She knew the sense of accomplishment they must feel and decided she could no longer be a bystander, she had to participate. She had to run.

Jessica’s choice of Special Olympics Massachusetts to support in her bid to run the Boston Marathon was a no brainer. Her cousin, Corey, has been a long time athlete for Special Olympics and a major source of inspiration in her life. “My biggest inspiration is Corey O’Keefe. He is dedicated, hard-working, funny, and most of all, caring. Not a marathoner but an ATHLETE. More of an athlete than I’ll ever be. Football. Basketball. Hockey. Weightlifting. Golf. If I take running this marathon half as seriously as he takes any of his sports, I’ll cartwheel over the finish line. Special Olympics has given Corey a platform to showcase his talents and make a positive impact on the people around him. I want to show Corey how he is an inspiration to me and to others. I would like to show him that he is my motivation not to quit. I want my cousin Corey to know what an impact he has made on me, other athletes, Special Olympics, and beyond. “

This might be a “one and done” marathon for Jessica. We can’t wait to journey with and encourage her, as she pursues her dream and finds her inspiration with Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Support Jessica’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Bennet Johnson

 

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

For Bennet Johnson, mile 21 of the Boston Marathon was where it all started. Right after the runners crest of Heartbreak Hill and looking toward the finish line with tired legs and sore feet, the runners are greeted by, quite possibly, the bennet-johnsonmost enthusiastic group of spectators the race has to offer. The students of Boston College line this exact spot. Offering endless amounts of spirited well wishes as the runners push towards the finish line. Three years ago as Bennet cheered with his classmates for the first time, he set a goal to one day be on the receiving end of the Boston College crowd.

This year Bennet is making his dream a reality and running the marathon for the first time. But his journey is about so much more than a dream, it’s about family. “This is my first marathon, and I am running for my brother Sam. At age three, Sam was diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and needs direct supervision from a caregiver or family member 24 hours a day. His first two years of development seemed normal. He smiled, giggled, and repeated words like “Mommy” and “Daddy.” bennet2But without warning, Sam gradually lost his vocabulary, and before my parents knew it, their first-born son seemed to have vanished.

“Autism is heartbreaking in that way. One day my brother was smiling at my parents, speaking their names, and the next, he was looking right through them,” said Benet. “Today, Sam cannot speak, go to the bathroom, or take care of himself. But Sam is blessed with caregivers and volunteers who support him, and work to make the most of his abilities. I am inspired by these people and others in organizations that serve people like Sam. Special Olympics is one of the best organizations in the world supporting people with physical and intellectual disabilities.”

Special Olympics Massachusetts is a proud supporter of Bennet as he takes on his first marathon in support of his brother and our 12,000+ athletes across the state.

Support Bennet’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Skiing Makes Me Feel Free

World Games Athlete Spotlight: Chris O’Neil

At the age of eight alpine skier Chris O’Neil put on his first pair of skis. He started with an adaptive program at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA and loved the sport so much that by middle school he was skiing 3-4 days a week with the Special Olympics Massachusetts Nashoba Shooting chris-oneil-photoStars ski team. According to O’Neil, “skiing is a sport that makes me feel free when I do it.” After 19 years of practicing and improving, he’ll be taking his skills to Austria to represent the United States at the 2017 Special Olympics World Games in March.

“When I found out I was going to Austria I was so excited. When my parents and sister told me I was so happy I cried. To represent the United States at the Special Olympics World Games makes me feel so proud. I am excited to be a part of the team,” expressed O’Neil. Leading up to his selection O’Neil was working hard to refine his skills. In addition to skiing with his team and coach at Nashoba Shooting Stars three to four days a week, he attended a training camp in June of last year at Mount Hood in Oregon. While at the camp, where they actuallymassachusetts-oneil_christopher-athlete skied on a glacier at an 8000 feet elevation, O’Neil worked on a variety of his skiing techniques including speed and agility.  “It was fun to ski at a place where there were no trees, we were actually skiing above the tree line,” he noted. He’s also been training hard off his skis by working out in the gym or at home two or more days a week to enhance his cardio, leg strength and agility.

In early December O’Neil joined 200+ members of the Special Olympics US team and coaches at training camp in Killington, Vermont. While at camp he was most excited to meet the 50+ members of the alpine ski team, including athletes, coaches and staff. He hit the slopes every morning to practice with the team and afternoon sessions involved dry land workouts in the health and wellness center. “My favorite thing about training camp was meeting all my teammates. There was also an awesome pep rally with a marching band and speeches congratulating us and wishing us luck in Austria,” he shared.

Chris was featured in a video highlighting the 2017 World Games in Austria produced by Bank of America:

O’Neil is very excited to travel to Austria with his family. Although it’s not his first time out of the country, it will be his first time travelling to Europe. O’Neil is really looking forward to, “sightseeing and trying the food. I would also love to see the place where the Sound of Music was filmed.” But what will make the trip the most special is sharing the experience with his mom, dad and two sisters.  “It will be really nice to have them their cheering me on.”

Looking ahead, O’Neil is already setting goals for his World Games experience. “I want to do my best and beat my personal time. I hope that this experience will not only make me a better skier but help me be a more independent person. I feel that after doing this I know I can do anything, including going to another World Games!”

Massachusetts Athletes Represent at Special Olympics World Winter Games

Be sure to follow all of the coverage from Austria on ESPN and ABC:

ESPN’s Groundbreaking Coverage of Special Olympics World Winter Games Begins March 18 From Austria

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Kalei Buzcek

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

“Never being, always becoming” These are the words that Kalei Buczek chooses to model her life around. “It’s a reminder to always grow and learn. You are never stuck in one place, you are always on your way to becoming kaleisomething else, hopefully better.” The next stop on Kalei’s journey is the Boston Marathon and she’s going for it full speed ahead. She set a goal of raising $8,500 for Special Olympics Massachusetts and she is well on her way to making that a reality.

What motivates her and what brought her to this race? “My biggest motivating factor has been the compulsion to do things that I, or others, didn’t think I could. This compulsion, coupled with an inability to say “no” to exciting and new opportunities, regardless of effort required, has now led me to the Boston Marathon.

Now, I am motivated by the compulsion to give back. Through running, I have been able to overcome various mental, physical, and even spiritual hurdles in the past year. It has been my privilege to be able to get up every day and make a choice to push myself and overcome these obstacles. At this point, I feel it is now my duty to help others to overcome their own.”

We are blown away by Kalei’s work ethic and giving spirit and we can’t wait to watch her take this journey!

Support Kalei Buczek in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Chris Dwyer

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

When Chris Dwyer first became involved with Special Olympics 13 years ago he never imagined it would take him it would take him all the way to the Boston Marathon. To be honest, he’s still in awe. Chris has always been an athlete but in middle and high school, chris-dwyerhe decided to use his skills on the field to help his local Special Olympics Massachusetts teams in soccer, basketball and golf.

“Special Olympics is an amazing program that offers children and adults with special needs the ability to participate in programs 365 days of the year. As a student at Boston College, I was a member of the sailing team where athletics challenged me to be a better athlete, student, and citizen than I was the day before. This is the power of sports and what makes the Special Olympics an invaluable experience to those who participate,” he said.

“I’m now twenty-three and want to give back to the energetic coaches and volunteers as well as the talented, passionate, and caring athletes who enriched my life through Special Olympics. Having spent four years watching the Boston Marathon go through my Boston College campus, I realized that I could combine a personal challenge with one that will hopefully benefit the lives of so many others,” explained Dwyer.

As Chis looked for new ways to challenge himself, one thing stuck out in his mind. Running the Boston Marathon is just one of the many ways Chris is giving back to his community, bringing awareness to a worthy cause and pushing his athletic limits. We can’t wait to watch him cross the finish line and continue to change the lives of our Special Olympics athletes!

Support Chris Dwyer’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts Today!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Tim McLaughlin

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Tim McLaughlin has been an athlete his whole life but was never a runner; he left that to his wife. He cheered her on as she completed seven marathons and countless other fun runs, picking her up at the finish line and supporting her every step of the way. It mclaughlinwasn’t until his company decided to sponsor its employees in the Philadelphia Blue Cross Broad Street Run that Tim started to feel the drive to run.

This year Tim is participating alongside his wife in the Boston Marathon. What brought him to this race? Would you believe that it was the infamous Boston weather? Tim joined the thousands of spectators lining the marathon route on a particularly miserable cold and rainy day to watch his wife complete her 26.2 mile journey. As he stood there, frozen solid and soaked to the bone, he chatted with the strangers next to him. Tim found that most of the crowd wasn’t there to cheer on one specific person but to encourage every runner by keeping them energized with their infectious spirit and enthusiasm. The weather didn’t seem to bother a single person. He knew then that the Boston Marathon was a challenge he needed to take part in. The unwavering support of the Boston community and the dedication of the athletes was the inspiration Tim needed.

When looking for a charity to support during his run, Tim didn’t have to look far. With four children of his own he understands the important role education and physical activity play in their development. “Special Olympics Massachusetts is changing attitudes and giving perspective to able bodied people. It encourages everyone to get involved and educate themselves on the importance of acceptance and respect.”

As for the marathon? Tim is taking on this challenge with the love of his life by his side and the finish line ahead. He is proud to support Special Olympics Massachusetts and the thousands of amazing athletes.

Support Tim’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts Today!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Rachel Dill

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Special Olympics Massachusetts is excited to have one of our own running the 2017 Boston Marathon. Rachel Dill, Director of Development and Partnerships, is an inspiration to us all. Her dedication, heart and ambition are unparalleled and while we could rave about her all day, we thought it best she tell her story in her own words.

“Six years ago, I had the crazy idea that I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 30. It couldn’t be just any marathon, it had to be Boston. Fast forward to today and it just so happens that the 2017 Boston Marathon falls exactly one month before my 30th birthday. Running the marathon has been in the back of my mind every year for the last six years and I knew that one day I would follow through on this personal goal.

“My connection to Special Olympics Massachusetts runs deep. My sister Jenny has special needs. She is 31 years old and has a developmental delay and learning disability. Jenny is one of the most kind and compassionate individuals I know and never fails to put a smile on my face no matter the circumstance.

Jenny & Rachel celebrating Jenny’s 31st birthday at her favorite Thai restaurant!!

“Jenny started competing in track and field with Special Olympics Massachusetts when she was ten years old. (This happens to be the same time I became involved and became president of the Jenny Dill Fan Club.) As we grew older, she continued to participate and I evolved from spectator, to volunteer, to fundraiser, and finally to a dedicated staff member at Special Olympics Massachusetts. For as long as I can remember, I have seen what a positive impact sports has had on my sister. Sports has helped Jenny develop better fitness, expanded her endless social circle, encouraged her to have confidence, and allowed her to experience the pure joy and excitement of winning a medal after a competition. She has taught me so much about myself and the importance of accepting others regardless of their situation. Jenny has truly shaped the person I am today. Having a sister with special needs has only enhanced my experience of one of the most amazing bonds in life: sisterhood.”

All of us at Special Olympics Massachusetts can’t wait to cheer her on as she crosses the Boston Marathon finish line. Go Rachel!

Support Rachel’s Boston Marathon Fundraising Effort Today!