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!

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!

My Favorite Part is the Adrenaline Rush!

World Games Athlete Spotlight: Alyssa Neil

Neil, along with three other athletes from Massachusetts is part of the 200+ person Special Olympics team from the United States.massachusetts-neil_alyssa-athlete This is not her first time hopping on a plane to compete for Special Olympics. Alyssa attended the Athens World Summer Games in 2011 in track and South Korea 2013 in speed skating. “When I saw that I was chosen to go to world games this year I was watching it live on Facebook and I just screamed.” When asked what it means to her to be representing the USA again, she responded, “It’s such an honor. When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of friends and Special Olympics Massachusetts gave me the opportunity to make friends and travel. I still keep in touch with my former USA Special Olympics team members who live all over the country. It is an honor to be able to experience the culture of other countries and represent the United States.”

Training has been an important part of preparing for World Games. After getting in shape with her local team in November, Special Olympics USA came together as a team in Vermont back in early December to meet, bond and begin their training. While at training camp the speed skating team, made up of nine skaters from across the country, put in three-hour workouts each day – both on dry land and on the ice. Neil said, “It was great seeing all the different abilities everyone has and they all bring something different to the team. It was nice to meet the coaches also. Some of the coaches are the same as previous World Games which is good because they know the athletes and how hard to work us.” Other than training, her favorite part of camp was the “Austrian folk singer who came and sang and told stories about Austria. It was so nice to see a little piece of the culture we will be hearing and seeing while in Austria.”

alyssa-smile-crop

Alyssa Neil a training camp in Vermont.

Without her family’s support none of this would be possible. Travelling with Neil to Austria are her mom, dad and grandfather. This is the first time that her grandfather and father are travelling abroad. When considering her family’s support while competing Neil expressed, “I am very excited to prove myself to my family. With them there it will make me work harder to show that I can do it.”

Although the competition will take up most of her time, Neil is also interested in being a part of the host town program which takes place the week before competition. The host town program offers athletes and coaches from around the world the opportunity to see and experience the most beautiful sights of the country led by volunteer host towns and families. She also wants to visit some of the beautiful Abbeys in Austria with her family and teammates.

Overall, she says, “my favorite part of speed skating is the adrenaline rush I feel when I pass an opponent and beat them to the finish line,” explained Neil. Here’s to hoping that she feels that adrenaline rush many times during her two weeks of competition and that she achieves all her goals. Congratulations Alyssa Neil! Now go and show the world what you can do!

Alyssa and the Special Olympics USA Speed Skating Team

Alyssa and the Special Olympics USA Speed Skating Team

Volunteer Spotlight: Miye Jacques

Special Olympics Massachusetts Volunteer: Miye Jacques

Miye Jacques is on the far left with her Rocketeers teammates

Miye Jacques has been volunteering with Special Olympics Massachusetts since 2014. She’s volunteered as an event volunteer at Winter Games and Summer Games and has volunteered with local teams as an assistant swimming coach and currently as a Unified partner with the Auburn Rocketeers bowling team. This year Miye has taken her involvement to the next level by taking the icy leap of fundraising for the Polar Plunge on March 4th and coordinating a group of volunteers at Winter Games on March 11th and 12th in Worcester.

“I decided to fundraise and volunteer because through volunteering I was able to see the amazing benefits Special Olympics provides to its athletes. It allows athletes to have fun and build friendships through sports, but also helps build confidence. After seeing the benefits each athlete receives from participating in [Special Olympics Massachusetts,] I wanted to ensure that the programs would continue for them. After working with a team, I learned how costly it can be to keep these programs running. I decided to fundraise because I wanted to help raise money to help keep Special Olympics running and further help the amazing Special Olympics athletes.”

We are proud of Miye’s commitment to Special Olympics and we’ll be cheering her on as she runs into the cold water of Revere Beach at the Revere Polar Plunge and as she competes with the Rocketeers at Winter Games!

Visit http://www.specialolympicsma.org or email Volunteer@specialolympicsma.org to support Special Olympics athletes at the Polar Plunge, Winter Games, or with a local team.