My name is Melissa Joy Reilly.
I have been with Special Olympics forever.
I am an athlete and a Global Messenger.
I have competed in swimming, cycling and skiing.
And, in January 2016 I joined the Special Olympics Massachusetts Board of Directors.
So you see Special Olympics is a big part of my life.
Becoming a Special Olympics Athlete
I was born with one extra chromosome. This condition is known as Down-syndrome. It means that I can do most things that other people can do except it takes me a little longer.
But the good thing is, it qualified me to become Special Olympics athlete. I cannot exactly remember when, but I will never forget my very first swimming practice. It was at the YMCA in a freezing pool!
We had a great team called the Dolphins. My coaches and a whole bunch of volunteers were amazing. They even organized team BBQs and pool parties and I made friends for life.
I have also competed in great cycling events. But my most wonderful experiences have been when I competed in alpine skiing for Team USA in Nagano, Japan in 2005 and in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2013. The coaches and volunteers of the Nashoba Shooting Stars trained me so well that I was ready to compete against the world’s best ski racers in two World Winter Games and each time I won a silver medal in the slalom.
I cannot imagine my life without Special Olympics. Because Special Olympics has improved my life and gave me courage to take regular education classes in school and prepared me to join my high school sports teams. I ran track and cross-country for all four years.
My education, graduating from Acton-Boxborough and from Middlesex Community College Transition Program prepared me for my “dream” job. I work at the State House in Boston as an office-aid for State Senator Jamie Eldridge. And I am also a classroom assistant for the Learning Program of Boston. It’s a pre-school for little kids with Down-syndrome.
Special Olympics Global Messenger
As a Global Messenger I make presentations to many different groups and organizations. I spread the word about how very important Special Olympics is for people with all different kinds of intellectual disabilities.
I have been a Keynote speaker on the East and West coast and in between. These are wonderful opportunities to “show and tell” the world that people with all different kinds of intellectual disabilities want to be included in life, and they are able and want to work. And just like everyone else we want to participate in sports and to have fun.
I tell them how Special Olympics is a big part of giving me courage and confidence.
Thank you volunteers. You are all amazing. We are the Special Olympics athletes and you are the SPECIAL people behind our success.
A million thanks to all the great volunteers.