Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Gabby Grieco

#50for50: Volume 19
▪️ Gabby Greico
▪️ 21 years old
▪️ Villanova University

“My brother is a year younger than me. One of our really good family friends is named Matt and he went to high school with my brother [Nick]. Matt has Down syndrome and he and Nick joined a Unified volleyball team. I was really involved in athletics growing up in Rhode Island and athletics to me obviously meant something very different than athletics to them. My school didn’t have an opportunity to play on a Unified volleyball team and so my passion to get involved stemmed from jealousy. I would go to their games and I could tell it’s what sports should be. You wanted to win, but you enjoyed your experience doing it. And everyone was smiling and that just wasn’t my experience. I loved the experience I had, for sure, but I was killing to get the experience they had. And they won the state championship all four years, so it opened my eyes to what sports really could be. … I played field hockey, track and lacrosse. I actually committed to play lacrosse down the road at Haverford but one weekend I visited Villanova and decided not to [go to Haverford]. That’s very not like me, but it’s a decision I’m very happy with, looking back on it.Once I got to Villanova, I became a Local Program Host, and had the best weekend ever so I decided to get more and more involved. My mindset shifted from “Oh, what a great experience for Matt” to “this just benefits everyone who’s in the room.” I feel like it’s really easy to relate to people through athletics and then go from there. … The concept of community is something that is really fostered around Villanova’s campus. I think it’s become a part of campus culture to buy into these things. [At Fall Fest], I had the opportunity to go to O-Town and sit on the Bartley steps and just look out on the crowd. I saw a lot of smiling faces. The enormity of the weekend really hit me at that point. I realized this was reaching a lot of people and that was the ultimate goal. I felt really grateful, really happy and really proud.”

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Special Olympics Pennsylvania

The mission of Special Olympics Pennsylvania is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

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