Lauren Wears Many Hats

This is an excerpt from a speech by Special Olympics Athlete and Global Messenger, Lauren to the Special Olympics Massachusetts Board of Directors on February 28, 2017:

Throughout my involvement in Special Olympics I have held many titles; global messenger, head coach, volunteer, fundraiser, team coordinator, lobbyist, committee member and master of ceremonies. But the title that I cherish the most, the one that I hold close to my heart is athlete. Titles come and go but being an athlete is something no one can ever take away from you. I started Special Olympics when I was 9 years old. To my 9 year old Special Olympics meant friends. By 14 years old my disabilities became so overpowering in my life I moved to a residential school. To my 14 year old self Special Olympics was a loving connection to home. At 18 years old I was living on my own for the first time and experienced all the ups and downs that being a young adult entails. To my 18 year old self Special Olympics was a constant reminder to be true to myself. When I was 21 I encountered some difficult choices regarding my future. To my 21 year old self Special Olympics was the family that stood behind me while I made those decisions. I am now 25. To me Special Olympics is hope. Hope for the mother whose son starts showing signs of autism in preschool. Hope for the father whose disabled adult son applies for a job because he gained the confidence needed by being a team captain. Hope for the brother who never thought his wheelchair bound sister would ever play catch with him until he saw her compete in the softball throw. Hope. Because Hope is the foundation in which all other notions are built upon. And because Special Olympics doesn’t just change lives, it builds futures.

Meet Boston Marathon Runners Maire & Shannan Callanan

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

 

Special Olympics runs deep in the Callanan family. From an early age, both Maire and Shannan Callanan were introduced to Special Olympics through all aspects of the organization – the athletes, volunteers, and coaches.

Every Sunday when they were young, they would head down with their brother to the track in Situate to help their mother Betsy coach the local Special Olympics Massachusetts track and field team. Shannan and Maire got to observe firsthand the influence Special Olympics has on all the athletes’ lives. They saw these athletes gain confidence through all of their experiences. It touched even closer to home because for more than 10 years, they got to watch their Uncle Joe who was active Special Olympics athlete. Since then, both Maire and Shannan have decided to follow in their mother’s footsteps and coach Special Olympic track and field teams.

Through her journey with Special Olympics, Maire expressed that “It has been a wonderful experience to participate in Special Olympics Massachusetts with some of the people who are closest to me in my life and see the positive effects that the organization has had on their self-confidence as well as their interpersonal and physical skills.“

Maire and Shannan who are 5 years apart in age, have both been long time runners. Together, they set a goal of running the Boston Marathon as a family for all of the athletes they have both coached. Together, they accomplished their goal on Monday, April 17, 2017 as they crossed the finish line on Boylston Street.

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Suzanne Schiavone

By Emme Punches

Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Since beginning track when she was in middle school, Suzanne Schiavone has always had a natural talent for running. It wasn’t until she attended Boston University that she took her running to a whole new level. It was there that she witnessed her first Boston Marathon. “I’ve been watching the marathon since I attended BU. I was inspired and moved emotionally by what as amazing race it is and the great stories that come from the marathon. How people help each other and find their strengths.” During this time is when Suzanne took her running to the next level, completing various 5ks and half marathons. These races led to her to complete her first marathon in Newport, Rhode Island 3 years ago.

Running the Boston Marathon had always been on the back of her mind since watching it her freshman year. The strength that comes from the Boston Marathon and the incredible crowds it draws helped Suzanne realize that she had to run it, and 2017 would be that year. When it came to choosing a charity team, Special Olympics Massachusetts stood out to her. “As a Speech-Language Pathologist who works with children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I have had the privilege of seeing first-hand the incredible impact Special Olympics can make!”

We are so excited to see Suzanne cross the finish line and help thousands of Special Olympic Athletes!

Support Suzanne in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Mariel Johnson

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Mariel Johnson likes to live by one simple phrase that she believes applies to everything, “great things happen when you step out of your comfort zone.”

Mariel did just that when she picked up and moved to Boston two short years ago after receiving a job offer from Brown Brothers Harriman. “Growing up a Jersey girl, it was difficult to admit that I immediately felt at home in a new city so far from my family and friends. Boston bestowed such rich history, pride, and intrinsic beauty and I wanted to experience it all.”

The move to Boston also helped spark her love for running competitively. “Thanks to my blooming curiosity, I started going on long runs and drifting into different Boston neighborhoods. Running (and sometimes getting lost) was my way of exploring the city – from Cambridge to Southie to Fenway, I appreciated each neighborhoods’ unique character”

Not only did this phrase help her to move to a new city, but it’s also the reason she will be lining up with thousands of other charity runners at the starting line of the Boston Marathon. “This simple phrase relates to the amount of courage it takes the Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes to compete their best and the courage it took me to sign up for my first marathon”

We are excited to watch Mariel step out of her comfort zone to compete and to help Special Olympic athletes do the same!

Support Mariel in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Lori Potocki

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Located in Newton, MA between mile 20 and 21, is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Every runner keeps this climb in mind as they train diligently for the run. It’s the final crest they face as they head into the last 5.2 miles of their grueling journey, and it’s the hardest challenge they overcome before their feet finally cross the finish line.

Most runners practice for Heartbreak Hill by racing up similar sized hills, but Lori Potocki is not most runners…

“There are no hills in Houston… so I’ve been running up garage ramps, overpasses, and the like. I hope I’ll be ready for Heartbreak Hill!”

Although the hill may be heartbreaking, and the 26.2 miles an exhausting test of human endurance, it is nothing compared to what Lori has already achieved. She has already completed two marathons in 2016 and 2017, and achieved 1st place in her age group for the Texas Oilman 70.3 in 2014.

After the Boston Marathon, Lori has her sights set on completing a full Ironman, that’s 140.6 miles. With unparalleled determination, we have no doubt that Lori will finish the Boston Marathon and her future endeavors with flying colors!

 

Support Lori in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

 

 

Unified Basketball, Dunking, Community

We are lucky at Special Olympics Massachusetts. So many great people. So many great communities.

Our Greater Lawrence Basketball League in one such example. This league has all the key ingredients of an inclusive and amazing Special Olympics Community: Great athletes, incredible volunteer coaches, an engaged school-based host group (Brooks School in North Andover) and of course… the only unified slam-dunk contest in the world!

Brooks School student-athlete Ethan Gabert-Doyon made this video highlighting all the action!

 

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Bethany Bergeron

Bethany is from Natick, MA and grew up watching the Boston Marathon from the intersection of 135 and Speen Street. Year after year, she watched thousands of runners as they took on the marathon, and knew someday she would too.

Q: Do you have any connection to the Boston Marathon?  I grew up watching the Marathon in Natick. It is a positive childhood memory. I have been a runner since high school and I love it. I have participated in half marathons and other races. My sisters have both run Boston and I am excited to have the opportunity to do so this year!

Bethany has been a kindergarten teacher for the past 12 years, and currently works at Upham Elementary School in Wellesley, MA. Through teaching, she has been able to work with children with intellectual disabilities and has “always felt it was important to help them feel successful and welcome in the classroom.” For this reason, Bethany picked Special Olympics as her charity of choice for the Boston Marathon.

Q: What does Special Olympics mean to you? I love the message of Special Olympics. The organization believes in children and so do I. We have to give everyone a fair chance to feel successful and reach for their dreams. Special Olympics provides so many children and adults these wonderful opportunities.

On top of helping over 12,000 Special Olympic Massachusetts athletes, Bethany gets to complete a goal that she set as a child.

Q: What’s the craziest thing on your bucket list? A big thing on my bucket list is running the Boston Marathon and now I am preparing for it! Yay!

Special Olympics Massachusetts is excited to watch you check off the craziest thing on your bucket list! Best of luck on race day.

Support Bethany Bergeron in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!