Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Ameer Wood

#50for50: Volume 30
▪️ Ameer Wood
▪️ 24 years old
▪️ Philadelphia County

“I’ve always been motivated to become a Special Olympics athlete ever since I was watching the 2015 World Games. In that moment, I knew I wanted to become an athlete one day. Then, I learned about Special Olympics online. I did my research and I applied by emailing the Special Olympics and filling out my application. Last year was my first year and my first sport was basketball. It’s easy cause I was very athletic. It was kind of easy for me to get involved. At first I was a little nervous, but then I got my confidence back up. I went to the state championships. It was fun, I enjoyed it a lot. I got three gold medals. I went to Widener [University], Kutztown [University] and Penn State [University]. In basketball, I play a lot of positions. I play point guard, power forward and center. One of my favorite players was ‘No. 13’ from the South Philly Wildcats. I mean, this guy was dunking. And then when we played them, I held him to only dunk. I was like, ‘OK great game.’ … Right now, I can’t go outside because of the lock down, so I did the Virtual Summer Games challenges. The 50-meter dash, the basketball challenge and the shuttle run. But I can’t wait to get back out there. Flag football, I can’t wait. I’m still in shape. I’m still doing my Zoom meetings with my team and I’m doing my Global Messenger trainings and I just got to wait to get a mentor and I can continue training. … I always wanted to be a motivator for other athletes. And I know that I can do anything and I know I can help other individuals. Basically I want to spread the message. I want to make others stronger by supporting them. If I support them, they support me. I did a speech to introduce myself and talking at a press conference and I did an assignment on the COVID-19 lockdown and also on the Virtual Summer Games. … My favorite hobbies are to color, draw and work out. I’m trying to go to college. That’s probably next year. I’m going to apply in the Fall. I want to go for paralegal law. I want to be a lawyer and a sportswriter. I can’t wait for it. That’s what I want to go to school for. I’m applying to Arcadia University. I just think a lot of individuals with disabilities get discriminated against. Not just that, but I just feel like people don’t have their rights. So the least I could do is try to help support them with the law. That’s why I’m interested in that field.”

The Voices of SOPA

During Special Olympics Pennsylvania‘s inaugural Indoor Winter Games in 2019, we took some time to sit down and talk to athletes throughout the event. Even though the 2020 Indoor Winter Games in York were cancelled, we wanted to share these interviews with you now. Below, you’ll find a collection of audio stories, which you can listen to by clicking, as well as portraits of these awesome athletes and their biographical information.

The Faces & Voices of Indoor Winter Games

Name: Kristine Progin
County: Lebanon
Sport: Floor Hockey Coach
Age: 44

“My dad had coached for years… I think that’s why I wanted to coach, because he and my mom had both coached before.”

Kristine Progin, Lebanon County

Name: Donte Vargas
County: Bedford
Sport: Floor Hockey
Age: 22

“We practice spin moves, getting the puck toward the net and we practice passing as well.”

Donte Vargas, Bedford County

Name: Hillary McFadden
County: Area M
Sport: Speed Skating
Age: 36

“When I was 17, I asked if I could do speed skating and they said, ‘no, you can’t do that [because you’re blind]’ and I said, ‘well sure I can. I can do anything I set my mind to.’ So we fought for it.”

Hillary McFadden, Area M

Name: Corey Zentner
County: York
Sport: Figure Skating
Age: 39

“I like my teammates. I try to help them to focus and not mess up. Try to help them do their best.”

Corey Zentner, York County

Name: Chloe Phillips
County: Lancaster
Sport: Swimming
Age: 21

“My goal is to embrace myself to do more, bigger events for public speaking.”

Chloe Phillips, Lancaster County

Name: Russell Green
County: York
Sport: Figure Skating
Age: 41

“[Coach Lin] takes the time in her efforts and she does whatever she needs to do with us… We like being here on Monday nights skating.”

Russell Green, York County

Name: Brandon Daehn & Elizabeth Brown
County: Area M
Sport: Speed Skating
Age: 29 & 22

“I do speed skating, tennis and long-distance walking and running. Summer is the only time I have free time.”

Elizabeth Brown, Area M

Name: Leah Cunningham
County: York
Sport: Figure Skating
Age: 15

“I do hockey and figure skating. I like it, it’s fun and it’s great.”

Leah Cunningham, York County

Name: Gabriel Stern
County: Lebanon
Sport: Floor Hockey
Age: 17

“It really means something to me that I can finally be supported in a place that I can actually call family for once.”

Gabriel Stern, Lebanon County

Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Amy Kochanowski

#50for50: Volume 29
▪️ Amy Kochanowski
▪️ 32 years old
▪️ Beaver County

“My first lessons were my mom teaching me how to swim, how to use my arms and swim good. I’ve been practicing forever. I love it. It’s my favorite sport. I do the 25 free and 50 back and the 25 breast and the relay. My first sport was swimming, then basketball and then track. Then speed skating, then soccer, then bocce, then snowshoeing, then bowling. I’ve been doing Special Olympics for 22 years. I have a rare medical disorder called panhypopituitarism. It’s an endocrine disorder. My endocrine system doesn’t work at all. Everything is synthetic. I get tired a lot, I get tired at events. But sometimes I just take a little rest and then go back to competing. … I do the rocks for awareness. I’ve painted more than 1,500 rocks, maybe 2,000 rocks. We put a label on them that says ‘Beaver County Special Olympics Pennsylvania’ and then hide them in different areas of the state. Then people find them and say where they found them and hide them again. They’ve actually traveled all over the world. Paris, Italy, King Tut’s tomb, the Great Wall of China. They’ve created global awareness for Special Olympics. There’s a Facebook page for people to go and say where they found them. I find all the rocks in creeks. I go up to Erie and find rocks there. I like the flat ones. They’re easier to paint that way. … I did the Beaver Polar Plunge this year. I loved it. I love the people and I love going in the water. Our team raised around $23,000 this year. Some years the water has been frozen and they’ve had to break the ice but this year it wasn’t cold. I put my knees in and came back out. I love the fundraising because it helps raise awareness for Special Olympics and helps us go on trips. I love the Torch Run, too. Every time they come out, I get so excited. … I love all my coaches and friends in Special Olympics. I was a little overwhelmed at first, being around that many people and being from a small community. But it made me grow as a person. It taught me to be social and taught me what competition was about. I love the gold medals. I get to the end, I speed fast and I get so excited when I win first place. I have about 50 pounds of medals at home. I’m very happy. I’m a happy person. I get along with people. I’m glad. I want to be in Special Olympics forever. I love my friends and coaches. They take care of me. My mom is a coach, too, and she takes care of me all the time.”

2020 Virtual Summer Games media coverage

Among the many incredible things that happened throughout the 2020 Virtual Summer Games, we were fortunate enough to receive some fantastic coverage from media throughout the state! Check out all the links below!

Fox 43Special Olympics Athletes Compete Virtually

CBS 3Virtual Pennsylvania Special Olympics Summer Games

Pittsburgh Post-GazetteSpecial Olympics PA summer games offers even more chances at competition

KYW 1060Special Olympics Pennsylvania to hold virtual events this weekend

Tribune DemocratSpecial Olympics Summer Games event goes virtual

The SentinelSpecial Olympics Pennsylvania to hold Summer Games event over Facebook, YouTube

WJACPA Special Olympics hosting virtual summer games this weekend

KDKA: Special Olympics Pennsylvania to host Virtual Summer Games

Daily CollegianSpecial Olympics of Pennsylvania to host virtual summer games, increases athlete engagement