By: Lindsay Gomes
After declaring 2016 as her “year to volunteer”, Natalie decided to join the 2016 Special Olympics Massachusetts Falmouth Road Race Team. This is not Natalie’s first event with Special Olympics Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Natalie and her husband fundraised for the Polar Plunge and her husband took the plunge! Natalie made the decision to join this year’s team due to her passion towards special education and fitness.
Natalie has always had a passion for special education. Throughout her life, she spent time surrounded by individuals with disabilities and challenges which is why she wants to advocate for people in need. Not only has she witnessed these struggles, she has also faced them in her own life.
While growing up, Natalie had an Individual Education Program (IEP). Through the support system provided by her school and family, Natalie was able to overcome it. “I know what it’s like to work so hard for the little things”, said Natalie. Her personal connection to special education grew stronger as her oldest son and youngest son faced educational delays. She believes that her oldest son was able to grow out of it because of all the opportunities and extra-curricular activities that they took advantage of. Currently, Natalie is working as a social worker at the elderly home where she had previously volunteered at. She hopes to get her master’s degree in social work. During her time working at the elderly home, she has been able to relate to patients with intellectual disabilities. This has helped Natalie discover her true passions, leading her to Special Olympics.
She believes that Special Olympics is beneficial because it provides children with physical activity but most importantly inclusion. Not only did her son overcome his Individual Education Program but he continues to prove to Natalie that he can do whatever he sets his mind to.
“I’m running to be an advocate for my kids, an advocate for myself, and an advocate for other people to make them more educated on the cause”, said Natalie.
Natalie ran the Falmouth Road Race 2 years ago and sees this as the perfect opportunity to do the two things she loves; train and fundraise. This will be Natalie’s first time running for a cause and running on a team. She also ran the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner in 2006 and mostly participates in half marathons. She thinks the Falmouth Road Race is a great race and wants to run the Cape Cod Marathon or the Bay State Marathon in the future.
Natalie believes that exercise is beneficial to everyone and can help people to reach their goals. She wants to fundraise for Special Olympics because she knows how much the athletes look forward to their events. Not only that, but it also gives them the opportunity to make friends, interact with other athletes and be involved in physical activity.
She began running at 11 years old which helped her recognize how import fitness is to everyone’s lives. “I feel that everyone needs exercise, friendships, goals, and teamwork”, said Natalie.
Throughout her life, Natalie has been exposed to the struggles and hardships of many different people. Because of all of these eye-opening experiences, she has decided to run the Falmouth Road Race and fundraise for Special Olympics.
“We as parents recognize the importance of these programs. We pay so much just for daily living. Anyone with a child who can participate should participate. It introduces them to many tools for life. With the right tools and support, everyone is in the same boat.”