Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Haleigh Sommers

#50for50: Volume 39
▪️ Haleigh Sommers
▪️ 24 years old
▪️ Fayette County

“I was a part of a special needs baseball team called the Miracle League when one of my friends on the team told us about Special Olympics. At first, it was more for something to do on Sundays. My first sport was bowling. I liked the sport, but I didn’t like how crowded it was. It was a lot of waiting around. We would wait for an hour, so I wasn’t so sure how I would like it. But it ended up being a good season and I ended up enjoying it. Bowling is one of the sports I enjoy and that I can do with little amount of help. Most other sports I need a lot of help, but this gave me more independence. I have cerebral palsy and I’m in a wheelchair, so I use a ramp for bowling. It’s more of just hoping for the best and trying to line up your ball in the ramp in the middle of the lane. Sometimes that doesn’t work. It’s more however the ball ends up. I play bocce, too, and they made me a special bocce ramp to use for that. It looks kind of like a tube and I can aim it and play that way. … I’m a Global Messenger for Special Olympics. I’ve done athlete surveys and given speeches. It wasn’t really one of my top things, but I was looking into starting school and I thought it would teach me more public speaking. I’m not a very confident speaker. I was hoping it would help and it has, just to get me out in public more. It’s way easier to do the speeches now than it was. I hope I’m getting the message out and letting people know more about it. We did one speech at the Women’s Business Society and that was a really great one. It seemed like they were interested. I did one for my local Rotary Club. That was a really nice one to do. And we did one at the Sheetz in Brownsville on their opening day and that was really neat, too. I really enjoy it and I’m really glad that I get to represent Special Olympics in that way. … I’m in school now. I do online schooling through PTC [Pittsburgh Technical College]. It’s still my general education courses, but I’m hoping to work at this place called Transitional Paths to Independent Living (TRPIL). It helps people with disabilities get out in the community and get jobs and it helps them with learning how to advocate for themselves. It helps them get equipment and things they need for a job. They have meetings where they talk about things that could be better in the community and how you can make it better. … I haven’t done the training for this yet, but I’m also the Athlete Representative for my county. I’m hoping to start a communications class to teach the athletes in my county better communication skills and how to talk to people. I just thought it would be a good way for our county to get together and work together. I’m very passionate about people with disabilities getting out and advocating for themselves and being independent. That’s my goal and I would love to help other people with that as well. I’m always willing to do anything in my community if they need help.”

Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Nick Kitzko

#50for50: Volume 38
▪️ Nick Kitzko
▪️ 25 years old
▪️ Lawrence County

“I live here in Lawrence County with my dad and brother. My brother is older than me. It’s nice here. I like it. I get to do a lot of different things and spend time with friends and family. A couple of years ago, I did basketball first with Special Olympics. I heard about it from someone I knew and I wanted to try it out. I thought it was just something to get me out of the house. But I enjoy it, it’s very fun. I enjoy hanging out with a lot of people. You meet different people and make new friendships that last a lifetime. I also do golf, volleyball and I tried bowling. I wouldn’t change it for the world. … Golf is my favorite. I’m better at it than most of the other sports. I practice a lot. When I was at Carnegie Mellon, I shot a 45 on the first day and then a 45 on the next day and that was one of my favorite moments. I think I was able to [shoot so low] because I did a lot of practicing and I was using a new Taylormade driver that my coach, Chuck Jones, gave me. It’s my favorite club. A lot of people have trouble with the driver, but I try not to. I love the freedom of being on the golf course. I just love the freedom out there. … School was a little bit tough, depending on the day. It was alright. People were either nice or they were mean. If they were mean, I just ignored it. I walked away. And I feel like I’m a bit stronger now, yep. I work at a janitorial place. I’ve been there for six years or so. The pay is good and I like it. I’m saving to fly to Austin, Texas for my birthday in December. I want to go there to visit my cousin. I’ve been there before, this would be my second time. It’s nice. There’s a lot more to do down in Texas and I like flying on an airplane. It’s fun. … I’ll help anybody if they need help. I’m just a kind person. I’m a very outgoing person. I’m blessed to have an amazing girlfriend, Kasey. We’ve been going out a couple years and I love her with all my heart. I just love meeting new people and making friends.”

Virtual Dream Ride 2020

Has it been a DREAM of yours to attend the Dream Ride?! Well now you can! Join us this weekend as we celebrate three days of inclusion at the 2020 Virtual Dream Ride! Here’s the viewing schedule and links:

Dream Ride (session 1): Friday (5 pm – 10 pm) ➡️ https://youtu.be/ulex35xawZQ

Dream Ride (session 2): Saturday (2 pm – 10 pm) ➡️ https://youtu.be/0htaTQB2E9Y

Dream Ride (session 3): Sunday (10 am – 2 pm) ➡️ https://youtu.be/lGwZnBSPY-g

#DreamRide | #InclusionRevolution

Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Tommy Kreutzer

#50for50: Volume 37
▪️ Tommy Kreutzer
▪️ 26 years old
▪️ Allegheny County

“I’ve been playing soccer for a few years. I started out playing goalie and then I played some in the field, too. I think I like playing in the field a lot better than playing goalie because playing goalie, you just stand there and wait for the other team to come and shoot on you. Playing in the field, you’re a lot more involved since you’re running all over the place. I think the first big event I went to was the Fall Festival at Villanova. I went for bocce and then soccer. I know at least a couple times our team has won the gold medal. That’s been fun and it’s also really fun spending time with the local program hosts. I really like them. They spend time with the athletes and coaches and when they’re able to, they come to your games and cheer you on and stuff. Over the years I’ve played bocce, basketball, soccer, golf and floor hockey. …  I wanted to do Virtual Summer Games and Virtual Sports Camp because it’s helped me stay active and doing the things I like to do. My favorite part of Virtual Summer Games was doing the challenges and watching the Opening Ceremonies video and my favorite part about Sports Camp was doing the different sports workouts and then the Scavenger Hunt and Minute to Win It. Other than that [my time spent at home since March] has been OK. I’ve been out with my dad to do shopping and run errands and stuff like that. I was supposed to go back to work toward the beginning of June, but I got injured. I do yard work for a family friend and I was trimming their hedges. I was almost done and had the trimmer away from the hedges and — I don’t’ know what made me do this — but I stuck three of my fingers on my left hand up to it. Of course it wasn’t on purpose or anything, but I got cut by the trimmer. I had some stitches in for a while and had to do occupational therapy just to get the motion back in my fingers and hand and everything. Thankfully there wasn’t any nerve, bone or tendon damage or anything like that. I’m very thankful… I just started back to work last Friday. I work at a restaurant called Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe. I’m mainly a dishwasher and I’ve done some prep work in the past. I like it there. … My dad’s one of our coaches for Special Olympics. I think it’s pretty cool. I get to learn from him and take things he teaches me and take the tips he teaches me and use that in the games. Some of my favorite memories are going to different sporting events with my dad and my sister. I remember one year we went and watched the parade after the Penguins won [the Stanley Cup] and another time we went to the Pirates’ Wild Card game and everyone was chanting the opposing pitcher’s name.”

Special Olympics Pennsylvania #50for50: Tyler Zahos

#50for50: Volume 36
▪️ Tyler Zahos
▪️ 21 years old
▪️ York County

“I started with Special Olympics when I did Unified track and field two years ago. My coach [Deb Gable] talked me into it because I could run fast. I did Unified bocce as well. I liked to ride on the bus to the track meets. I made a lot of new friends on the track team and I liked going to practices. I liked bocce, too. We won third place in the regional tournament and I showed the medal to all my friends. … This past year I got involved with the men’s basketball team at York College. I got to go to all the practices and was a part of the team. We would stretch and warm up and shoot around. For the games, I sat on the bench with the team and the trainers and cheered everyone on. At the end of the game, I high-fived the other team. Before the games I would warm up on the court and if somebody got injured I was always very worried about them. … I’m still in contact with a lot of the players on Instagram or by talking to them on the phone. I went to the away games, too, and this year we made it pretty far [in the postseason]. After our last game in Ohio we went to Buffalo Wild Wings, and that was a lot of fun. I got the honey mustard wings and fries. I did a lot of cheering for the team and even got to cut the net down after the first game in Ohio. We all went bowling one night and then went to the coaches’ house for dinner, too. After the season the team gave me a present — an acrylic basketball hoop and they all signed the backboard. … I recently entered and won a photo contest from the National Down Syndrome Society where my graduation portrait will be displayed on a Billboard in New York City to help kick off this year’s Buddy Walk. In my free time I like to watch a lot of YouTube. I like to dance and I like ‘Grease.’ I’ve watched all the versions of it in all the different languages. This fall I’m going to go to Penn State – Harrisburg and am enrolled in a Career Studies program. I’m excited to get on campus and meet new people.”

Photograph by Erin Elaine Photography