Greg Schwartz Running the Boston Marathon… AGAIN

 

To run the Boston Marathon you need to have perseverance, an unyielding desire to push past your limits and test your physical and mental abilities. As an athlete you have to be in peak form, you have to train, you have to endure and you have to want it. We know all of our runners this year have given 100% and are ready to cross that finish line… but we want to take the time to recognize one of our best.

Rachel with fellow Marathon teammate Greg Schwartz at a training run.

Greg with fellow Marathon teammate Rachel Dill at a training run.

Greg Schwartz stands above the rest as a shining example of why our volunteers, sponsors, partners and staff work so diligently and give so selflessly to Special Olympics. The moment you come into contact with Greg, he’ll put a big smile on your face. Even after a 14 mile training run, he is energetic, excited and positive. Anyone who can get a group of 50 runners to dress up in Star Wars themed apparel for a long Saturday morning run, is a serious rock star! Super Bowl weekend, Greg came ready to run in his TB12 Jersey carrying the sign ‘In Tom We Trust.’ That sign should have also said ‘In Greg we Trust’ because Greg has proven he can do just about anything he sets his mind to.

 

 

Doug and Greg_21 miler

Greg supporting 2016 Marathoner Doug Keith

Greg first became involved with Special Olympics over 10 years ago. He has participated as an athlete in almost all we have to offer – from football and soccer to basketball, softball and track. Greg is a natural born leader and a crucial part of any event he is involved in. You can always find him cheering for his teammates, leading them by example, or coaching fellow athletes. It’s safe to say Greg has made a huge impact on Special Olympics as a star athlete. Greg continues to shine in spite of the many challenges he faces every day. Greg was diagnosed with Amblyopia when he was a young child. This causes the brain to favor one eye. When Greg was in his early 20’s he completely lost his vision in one eye and while some might consider this a road block, Greg knows it’s just another hurdle he is going to clear with grace and a relentlessly positive attitude.

In 2015, Greg was asked to run the Boston Marathon on behalf of Special Olympics Massachusetts. While he had never considered running before, Greg knew this was a perfect opportunity to give back to an organization that had given him so much AND to inspire other Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes competes with all year. It’s two years later and Greg is about to run his 3rd marathon. We are honored to show him the same support in his endeavor as he has shown us for over the last decade.

Greg and mom Patti in a 2014 video about his training for the Boston Marathon:

 

Greg is running with a bib from the John Hancock Non-Profit Program. This program allows nonprofits like Special Olympics to provide marathon opportunities to fundraisers. John Hancock continues to build their legacy of strong community partnership by supporting sports programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities, here in Massachusetts. Funds raised through the Non-Profit Bib Program over the next two years will provide more inclusive athletic opportunities through Special Olympics Unified sports®.

 

You can support Greg’s 2017 Boston Marathon experience TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Fe Ahrens

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Fe Ahrens is no stranger to the Boston Marathon. On April 17th she will start her strenuous 26.2 mile run fe-ahrensfrom Hopkinton to the streets of Boston for the third time. Fe ran for Special Olympics Massachusetts in 2015 after getting to know us through her position in sponsorship marketing and work with the non-profit program at John Hancock. While her position affords Fe a bib for the marathon she knows running for SOMA is about so much more than a physical test, it is an admirable cause that deserves her full attention and fundraising efforts. She understands the influence that athletics can have on a person and has a strong desire to share that with Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics represents joy and opportunity. Sports played a huge role in my life growing up. Sports have allowed me to build my self-confidence, while being challenged by my peers. Sports have taught me patience, importance of teamwork, and determination. There’s no better feeling than the joy of crossing the finish line. Special Olympics ensures that no one is denied the joy and opportunity behind sports”

We want to thank Fe for her selfless and courageous pursuit of the Boston Marathon finish line in support of Special Olympics Massachusetts!

Support Fe Ahrens in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

 

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!

Skiing Makes Me Feel Free

World Games Athlete Spotlight: Chris O’Neil

At the age of eight alpine skier Chris O’Neil put on his first pair of skis. He started with an adaptive program at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA and loved the sport so much that by middle school he was skiing 3-4 days a week with the Special Olympics Massachusetts Nashoba Shooting chris-oneil-photoStars ski team. According to O’Neil, “skiing is a sport that makes me feel free when I do it.” After 19 years of practicing and improving, he’ll be taking his skills to Austria to represent the United States at the 2017 Special Olympics World Games in March.

“When I found out I was going to Austria I was so excited. When my parents and sister told me I was so happy I cried. To represent the United States at the Special Olympics World Games makes me feel so proud. I am excited to be a part of the team,” expressed O’Neil. Leading up to his selection O’Neil was working hard to refine his skills. In addition to skiing with his team and coach at Nashoba Shooting Stars three to four days a week, he attended a training camp in June of last year at Mount Hood in Oregon. While at the camp, where they actuallymassachusetts-oneil_christopher-athlete skied on a glacier at an 8000 feet elevation, O’Neil worked on a variety of his skiing techniques including speed and agility.  “It was fun to ski at a place where there were no trees, we were actually skiing above the tree line,” he noted. He’s also been training hard off his skis by working out in the gym or at home two or more days a week to enhance his cardio, leg strength and agility.

In early December O’Neil joined 200+ members of the Special Olympics US team and coaches at training camp in Killington, Vermont. While at camp he was most excited to meet the 50+ members of the alpine ski team, including athletes, coaches and staff. He hit the slopes every morning to practice with the team and afternoon sessions involved dry land workouts in the health and wellness center. “My favorite thing about training camp was meeting all my teammates. There was also an awesome pep rally with a marching band and speeches congratulating us and wishing us luck in Austria,” he shared.

Chris was featured in a video highlighting the 2017 World Games in Austria produced by Bank of America:

O’Neil is very excited to travel to Austria with his family. Although it’s not his first time out of the country, it will be his first time travelling to Europe. O’Neil is really looking forward to, “sightseeing and trying the food. I would also love to see the place where the Sound of Music was filmed.” But what will make the trip the most special is sharing the experience with his mom, dad and two sisters.  “It will be really nice to have them their cheering me on.”

Looking ahead, O’Neil is already setting goals for his World Games experience. “I want to do my best and beat my personal time. I hope that this experience will not only make me a better skier but help me be a more independent person. I feel that after doing this I know I can do anything, including going to another World Games!”

Massachusetts Athletes Represent at Special Olympics World Winter Games

Be sure to follow all of the coverage from Austria on ESPN and ABC:

ESPN’s Groundbreaking Coverage of Special Olympics World Winter Games Begins March 18 From Austria

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!