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!

Families are Getting Fit Together

Thanks to the Metrowest YMCA and Special Olympics Massachusetts

Keeping fit and healthy is on most people’s to do list. For many families finding the time can be difficult. Incorporating your workout with the entire family can solve that problem. The Metrowest YMCA in Framingham is offering such an option.

YMCA trainer Caroline with Debra (left), Andrew (center) and Kenneth (right) Roberts circuit training.

Working with Special Olympics Massachusetts the Y has created a Fit Families Challenge for groups of four, whether it’s a family unit or an individual with three members of their support group, connected to Special Olympics. The six week program started with a one hour assessment where each family discusses what they wanted to achieve. From there a personalized workout program was established for the group. The program continues with twice a weekly thirty minute session with a personal trainer focusing on new exercises and reviewing what was learned. Families are also given a complimentary eight week membership to the Metrowest Y to work out any time and use what they’ve learned. A significant aspect about this facility is they have youth section where families can work out together. According to Thomas Black, Senior Program Director for the Metrowest YMCA, “We want families to come in, learn skills that they can then continue on their own. Trainers are focusing on partner exercises to keep it fun and innovative for everyone involved.”

Fitness is not the only component to a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition must also play a role. As part of the program, families are asked to keep a log of what they eat. When meeting with their trainer they discuss eating habits of the family and get tips on how to make healthy food choices. This is a whole body

Ryan Roberts (far left) with YMCA Trainer Carolyn (left) and Kenneth Roberts (right) learning how to use the equipment.

approach where Director Black says, “Our hope is that people are honest with the journals and use it as an open discussion with their trainer to identify barriers we can help them overcome and set up a plan to continue with these habits long after this program is over. We have found that working with parents and children together helps support the learned behaviors, whether it’s fitness or nutrition, for everyone in the family.”

Indeed the model seems to be working. Currently there are two families involved in the program and they are offering rave reviews. One family of four who has two children with autism has found the program offers a structure for their family that works well. “Last time we had a family membership my son was not really ready. We didn’t get a lot out of it. We thought it would work better to have him workout with us. The trainer showed us exercise moves that were great for the kids. They have a lot of equipment. My son is not a very structured guy so it was important to have someone to show us how to use the equipment properly and safely. Because there is a youth section I can go on the treadmill while my kids are working on the machines and we are all together.” Their primary reason for joining was they wanted to get their family moving more. “Our goals is to use the Y for the six weeks and if we like it to renew our membership and continue going.”

The Roberts family, who is also involved, has also seen some significant effects on their health and fitness. Their son Andrew noted, “I got involved because I am kind of out of shape and wanted to exercise more. My parents feel the same way.”

Fit Families2

Andrew Roberts lifting dumbbells demonstrating what he has learned.

The idea of meeting with the trainer twice a week has been important but they also stay an extra thirty minutes each time to “practice what they learned and have a cool down from the workout.” Through these sessions, the group has learned a lot about new techniques they either didn’t know about or hadn’t tried before. “We’re learning what types of exercises help what muscles and that in a good workout you exercise all your muscles. We also learned how to do circuits to get a full body workout,” according to Andrew.

The family of four, mom Debra, dad Kenneth, Andrew 13 and Ryan 11 have made some significant strides with the nutrition aspect of the program. When they started they received a packet of nutritional information. As a family they log what they eat every day. Unlike most people Andrew feels he needs to add weight rather than lose it. Since his brother and he are both picky eaters keeping track of their food has helped them think about how to be healthier in respect to their food intake. In keeping the log Andrew

The family as a whole has set a number of fitness and nutrition goals for themselves. According to Andrew, “at the end of six weeks my goal is to grow more muscle so I can do more than I used to lifting wise. My dad wants to eat healthier. My mom wants to get more fit in general. My brother wants to grow more muscle like me.” Nutrition wise they’re hoping to continue with the healthy eating habits established over the last weeks. Personally Andrew plans to, “drink less sugary drinks and more water. Keeping track of what we eat is a really good idea. I might keep doing that once the program is over.”

The first Fit Families Challenge six week program is coming to a close this week. “They’ll be leaving with an individual and team program that we hope will give them the tools they need to continue their workout and nutrition goals on their own,” stated YMCA Senior Program Director Black. The next Fit Families session will be starting on a rolling basis the week of April 3rd. If you’re interested in participating email Michelle Krol at

Love sports in addition Special Olympics! Check out thirteen year-old Andrew Roberts’ sports blog. He covers March Madness matchups, Bruins and Celtics action, and everything in between! See what he has to say at

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Eric Spindt

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

“Watch me!” Two little words uttered by Eric Spindt years ago have taken on a new meaning in the form of 6, going on 7, completed marathons. That’s right, Eric has run 157.2 miles of grueling race course, each step filled with sweat and tears, blisters and bruises and most importantly, perseverance Spinde2and triumph. Eric always had the drive in him, all it took was one of his friends joking he couldn’t run a marathon. His response? “Watch me.”

Eric was first introduced to Special Olympics when his sister was adopted from Korea at 13 months and his family found out she had an intellectual disability. “Special Olympics has been an important part of my life since my sister began participating as an athlete in 1998. The organization has enriched the lives of my entire family and I am so proud to give my time, money and training hours to support such a wonderful organization.”

As a board member and a brother, Eric has been to the world games in Ireland and China and experienced first hand, the importance of Special Olympics in the lives of many like his sister.

We are so proud of Eric and can’t wait to see his hard work and dedication culminate in the ultimate Boston Marathon triumph and for his support of Special Olympics Massachusetts!

Support Eric Spindt in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!