Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Beth Donahue

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

“I know I can do it.” “Just keep going.” “I got this.”

Being involved with Special Olympics since she was 8 years old, Beth Donahue has always pushed herself to do her best all while inspiring others to do their best both in sports and life. Beth first got involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) when her parents signed her up for soccer, but she didn’t stop there. For the past 19 years, she has competed in gymnastics, basketball, track, and skiing. More recently, Beth has focused on running, which is how she got involved with the Special Olympics XTRA Mile Team for the Falmouth Road Race. With an extensive history of running 5K races, mostly with Special Olympics, Beth has decided to focus more on her long distance training since this race will be the longest one she has competed in so far. The distance is no match for Beth’s love and dedication to SOMA. “Over the past several years, Special Olympics has given me so many opportunities to speak on their behalf and I have enjoyed the opportunities to inspire others to support people with disabilities. I also love to run and lift weights so doing the Falmouth Race is a perfect match for me.”

With the help of her new running shoes, R.I.P.P.E.D. boot camp music, and her mom, who is a fitness instructor, Beth is always ready for a good workout. “If I have been indoors all day at work or in class, my favorite thing to do is come home, change, grab my dog’s leash, and go for a run with my dog, Cooper. He is a 3- year- old Yellow Lab.”

Growing up in Marlborough, MA, Beth is currently taking classes at MassBay Community College as well as working part-time at Marshalls and Walgreens. “Both companies employ people with disabilities, and I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills and show how much inclusion matters. I like to spread the word about my volunteer work and all the great things that Special Olympics does to improve peoples’ lives through sports.”
With so much love for Special Olympics, Beth is very excited to be running yet another race for them. Be sure to cheer her on if you see her running the road race on August 20th! Good luck on race day, Beth!

 

Please consider supporting Beth or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races? Join the Xtra Mile today! 

Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Sam Nunes

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

“To me, Special Olympics is the epitome of inclusion and motivation. The athletes truly exhibit a never-give-up attitude and don’t let a disability stop them from being the best person they can be. They are truly role models that anyone can look up to.”

Growing up in Marlboro, NJ and attending college in Massachusetts, Sam Nunes knew after graduation he had to move back Mass. Now working as the Marketing Coordinator for New England Revolution, it was easy for Sam to get involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts. After being asked to accompany the Unified Soccer team on their away trip to New Jersey last summer, Sam immediately knew this was an organization he wanted to continue working with. “At no point did anyone on the team grunt over a teammate’s mistake, put someone else down, or get frustrated when they got scored on. All I heard was support, words of encouragement, and of course tons of cheering. It was such an organic moment that really stuck with me.”

With the Falmouth Road Race being Sam’s first official road race, he couldn’t be happier that he gets to run for SOMA. “I decided to run the Falmouth Road Race when Special Olympics offered to include some Revolution staff on their Xtra Mile team. I had always wanted to get into running official road races, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it.” Sam links the start of his official road race career to a quote that he lives by, “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” Sam doesn’t want to look back one day and feel as if he hasn’t fully lived his life, he wants to continue to create those important memories that he can look back on and feel proud of.

As we all know, it can be hard to get yourself up and off the couch to go for a run, but with the help of Special Olympics and his favorite tunes, including ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift, Sam finds the motivation to get up and train. “Having to go out and run when you’re not motivated is definitely a challenge, but I like to remind myself of the reason I am running this race and the incredible organization I am running it for.”
If you happen to be on the sidelines of the Falmouth Road Race, make sure to keep an eye out for Sam as he completes his first, but hopefully not his last, official road race. Congrats and good luck, Sam!

Please consider supporting Sam or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races? Join the Xtra Mile today! 

Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Stephanie Thompson

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

Since running cross country all four years in high school and continuing into college, running is something Stephanie Thompson can practically do in her sleep. Starting her marathon career in 2004 while she was a junior at Norwich University, Stephanie has now completed about 58 marathons, 6 half marathons, multiple 10Ks and 5Ks, a couple sprint-distance triathlons, 1 Olympic-distance triathlon and 1 half-Ironman. Basically, Stephanie is unstoppable. Most of the marathons were completed between the years 2012 and 2016 when Stephanie made it her goal to run a marathon in every state and on every continent. So far, she has run a marathon in all 50 states as well as 5 continents, with only Europe and Australia left to complete. Working hard to complete this goal, Stephanie lives by the motto of ‘doing your best’. Her favorite quote is from Jim Evans, “The body achieves what the mind believes.”

Born and raised in Martha’s Vineyard and moving to Sandwich, MA when she was 10 years old, Stephanie has always been involved in many non-profit organizations around Massachusetts. Currently, she works as a full time park ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers at the Cape Cod Canal. She also has her own running/coaching business, Warrior Runners, which is where she coaches individuals who are preparing for races. But it doesn’t stop there. This summer, Stephanie is hosting a trail run series across the Cape as well as a charity fundraiser in Sandwich on the morning of Sandwich Fest.

Deciding to run the Falmouth Road Race with the Xtra Mile team was no hard decision. While Stephanie may be taking a break from long-distance running, she still looks to participate as a charity runner. Becoming involved with the newly formed Special Olympics team in Sandwich, as well as being a disabled American Veteran, Stephanie is very happy to be running for SOMA and giving back to the community and the cause she strongly believes in. “I believe that everyone deserves that right – both abled and disabled bodies.”

Stephanie is motivated by her father, who is a polio survivor. “He has a disabled leg and hasn’t been able to run since the age of 5. I run for him because he can’t. He’s so proud of me, and I want to share my experiences, travels, and life’s journey with not only him but others along the way.”

While the average time for a female running one mile is 9 minutes and 55 seconds, completing a 7-mile run in about 70 minutes, Stephanie plans to run the Falmouth Road race in under 50 minutes. With her athletic background, there is no doubt she will be able to complete her goal. In relation to her marathon goal, Stephanie says, “I am very proud of my determination to set lofty goals, train hard, and achieve them.”
We are so excited to see Stephanie cross the finish line and help thousands of Special Olympics Athletes. Best of luck!!

Please consider supporting Stephanie or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races? Join the Xtra Mile 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!

 

Special Olympics: Full Circle

Kate with her son and daughter.

Kate with her son and daughter.

Kate Dyer has been involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) since 1997, first as a coach and Unified Partner, and now as a parent to both a Unified Partner and an athlete. This July, Kate Dyer will add a new title to her lengthy SOMA resume, Fundraiser, as she goes Over the Edge in support of the organization to which she is so deeply connected. SOMA sat down with Kate to discuss her history with the sports organization, her decision to fundraise, and the value in raising her children within the organization.

SOMA: Tell me a little about your history with Special Olympics – how did you first get involved?

Kate: When I originally volunteered to coach Special Olympics, I was a senior in college, majoring in Elementary Education, and volunteering at a clinic for children with special needs. I had a passion for working with people and really enjoyed playing sports. I was assigned to be an assistant coach for a Special Olympics adult basketball team in New Bedford.

SOMA: What was it like coaching the athletes?

Kate: I left the first practice with sore cheeks from smiling so much, and with a determination to be the best coach I could be. It was then that I knew I would get as much out of volunteering as the athletes would get from me. The athletes gain independence, a sense of accomplishment, friendship with peers, and confidence in themselves. As a Coach for volleyball, soccer and basketball, I gain an appreciation for each of my athletes’ struggles, patience, and skill at organizing a team of many differing abilities. As a Unified Partner for soccer, softball, and volleyball, I developed more physical fitness, experienced joy in watching the athletes succeed, and gained an understanding for the importance of community.

SOMA: That’s when you met your husband.

Kate: Within a few years of coaching, I fell in love with Jon, the gentleman Special Olympics originally paired me to coach with.

SOMA: And your children, they’re involved with Special Olympics as well?

Kate: Our two children have attended Special Olympics events since they were infants. Observing and participating in practice, they have gained an early understanding of people with different abilities, and have had opportunities to develop tolerance, acceptance, and friendship with families of athletes.

SOMA: Over the years, your connection to Special Olympics has evolved.

Kate: I am no longer just a coach, I am also a parent of an athlete: our son, Jordan. From this, I have gained friendships with other families of children with similar struggles, and found an organization that fits Jordan’s needs. The joy I experience watching him score a goal or basket, seeing him celebrate with his team…

SOMA: Your 12-year-old daughter, Jordan’s sister Sariah, is a Unified Partner. What is that like for her, growing up so close to the organization?

Kate: As a Unified Partner and volunteer, Sariah gains a better understanding of her brother. She helps Jordan feel successful at sports, and develops compassion for the people around her. She gains leadership skills while helping train the athlete and guide them through drills. My journey with Special Olympics has really come full circle. We’re a community, we all gain from each other.

SOMA: Coach, volunteer, Unified Partner, parent of an athlete. You and your family have held many titles over the years, and you’re adding one more to that list this summer: Fundraiser. Tell me about your decision to go Over the Edge.

Kate: I heard about Over the Edge at a Special Olympics coach’s meeting a couple years ago. I did not immediately participate because I struggle with asking people to donate money. This year I decided to give it a try because Special Olympics means so much to my family and the many families I know. I also enjoy sports, and thought rappelling down a 22-story building sounded like an incredibly memorable experience.

SOMA: Sariah is also going Over the Edge this year.

Kate: When Sariah learned about the event, she immediately wanted to participate. She loves Special Olympics: interacting with the athletes, sharing memorable times with the other volunteers, and being involved in such an important program. My husband and I were hesitant at first – Sariah is only 12 – but ultimately, I think it will be a strong bonding moment for mother and daughter.

SOMA: Both you and Sariah reached the fundraising minimum to participate ($1,000) within a few weeks of registering for the event. For first time fundraisers, that is certainly impressive. Tell me about your fundraising strategy.

Kate: I have posted it on my Facebook page, sent out emails, participated in a story in the local newspaper, and shared a typed version of the story with my friends and family. We are planning a yard sale where all the proceeds will go to our Over the Edge fund. Sariah babysits, and is planning on donating half of the money she raises babysitting to her Over the Edge fund.

If you would like to donate to Kate and Sariah Dyer, you can do so here:

Kate’s Over the Edge page: http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1155121&lis=1&kntae1155121=D9E2064EF98C43329F037F6337109C75&supId=434512290

Sariah’s Over the Edge page: http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1155121&lis=1&kntae1155121=D9E2064EF98C43329F037F6337109C75&supId=434728181

If you would like to register for Over the Edge, please do so here: www.OverTheEdgeBoston.com

Fenway Park Batting Practice Contest Winners

Athlete Winner: Danny Williamson

My name is Danny Williamson and to me one of the best things about my experience with Special Olympics is the friendships I’ve made and the respect I’ve gotten since I joined. I’ve made friends with athletes and coaches all around the country.

Through Special Olympics I’ve earned the respect and support of my community, family, friends and fellow athletes through my efforts as a teammate and competitor in many sports. Although I stutter, I have gained enough confidence in myself to recite the Athlete’s Oath in front of thousands at Opening Ceremonies in Harvard. I’ve even been able to sing the National Anthem at other Opening Ceremonies.

Special Olympics has given me leadership skills that I use every day as a person, sports manager and coach. I have always been involved in sports, mostly as a coach or manager not an athlete. Special Olympics has let me show what I am capable of as an athlete.

I have competed (and won) at some of the best colleges in the world. State games at Harvard and Nationals at Princeton where I earned gold medals. I got to play football at Gillette Stadium and basketball at TDBank Garden during halftime of a Celtics game. I am hoping to reach my dream of going to Fenway, not as a fan but as an athlete. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Volunteer Winner: Victor Liu

When I moved to Massachusetts in third grade, I could not speak English and had a difficult time in school, especially socially. Because of my language barrier, I was excluded from the conversations and activities in which most of my peers engaged. But from the outset, I felt welcome because of my classmate Allen, the most incredible person I have had the privilege of knowing and the honor of calling my friend. Allen was an intellectually disabled Special Olympics athlete, and the enthusiasm and optimism with which he lived were remarkable and inspirational.

When I felt down after performing poorly on my first test in the U.S., Allen encouraged me not to dwell on it. When I missed out on a spot on my school’s basketball team, Allen urged me not to give up. And when I experienced issues at home, Allen was there with me and for me. Allen was the best friend I could have asked for, and since his passing three years ago, I have been actively involved in Special Olympics Massachusetts in memory of him. I volunteer at SOMA’s competitions and fundraisers, and as a member of the Youth Activation Council, I strive to increase awareness in schools across our state. At my high school, I have organized R-Word Campaigns to make clear the meaning of the R-word and formed a club dedicated to implementing Project Unify in the local community.

Over the years, SOMA has afforded me the opportunity to interact with students and athletes like Allen, to unify my friends with and without mental disabilities, and, most importantly, to help others—as Allen helped me—feel included and accepted. I am grateful for SOMA for allowing me to carry on Allen’s lifework.

 

Coming to Marlborough: August Tournament!

Today was a big day at the “Yawk”! We are excited to announce that beginning with 2016, the August sports tournament will be held in and around Marlborough, MA. Along with Mayor Arthur Vigeant, and the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, Special Olympics Athlete Gregg Gallant, VP of Sports Matt Ruxton and CEO Mary Beth McMahon announced the news at a press event this morning at the Special Olympics Massachusetts State Offices – the Yawkey Sports Training Center.

The inaugural event will be held on August 27-28, 2016 and will serve at the culminating tournament for the summer sports season.

Event partners include Avidia Bank and sports venues ForeKicks in Marlborough and the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough. Special Olympics is excited to partner with additional local businesses including hotels and restaurants to provide the necessary services for over 1000 athletes and their families from across Massachusetts.

In case you were not able to make it out to the event, here are the speeches:

Special Olympics Athlete: Gregg Gallant:

Mayor of Marlborough, MA: Arthur Vigeant

Special Olympics Massachusetts President & CEO: Mary Beth McMahon

Special Olympics Massachusetts VP of Sports: Matt Ruxton