#50for50: Volume 50 ▪️ Gary H. Reid II ▪️ 21 years old ▪️ Area M
“It was maybe when I was 6 years old that I started with Special Olympics. Even before I could compete I used to get the participation badges. A little after that I started being able to be an athlete. Started really getting involved and getting blue ribbons and red ribbons and all that. I like running. And I did the long jump. I do bowling, too. And softball and swimming. I swim like a shark. I like to stand up there on the podium. I like to win and stand up there and get my medal and stuff. For whatever reason I like to run. I used to run before Special Olympics and everyone tried to catch me. Special Olympics helped. It’s a family event. My family always comes to see me. It was different this year. We really missed having it. … I like going to the dances. I love the [Olympic] Village where the DJ is. We have a lot of dances. The summer dance, the Halloween Dance. I love that. I dressed up as a hot dog this year. I won the funniest costume. I picked that out and my mom was like, ‘why?’ … Right now it’s a lot going on. We’re just finding the time to get on the Zooms and we’re trying to do the best we can with all that. Zoom is one of those things that’s become a part of your life in doing everything. Sometimes with Zoom you get burnt out from it. But we do have a lot of activities we’re doing on Zoom. This year I like the fact that no matter where you are you can join. That’s pretty nice. I did Virtual Summer Games, which was really nice. I keep the ribbons in my room. I have a lot of first and second place. Green and blue and red. I keep all my ribbons. I keep them in a pouch full of all of them. … I’m a super senior at my high school and I’ll be graduating in 2021. I’m going to have an interview on December 3rd with Goodwill through a transition program with OVR [Office of Vocational Rehabilitation] and they’re helping me. There’s also a program in Harrisburg that’s a college program for people with disabilities. I’m looking into that, too. … I love to listen to music and Facetime my friends. The main thing I like to do is dance. And play the Wii. It’s a lot of music stuff. I like to listen to house music. My birthday party song. I like a variety of music. Club music. I like those kinds of beats. Some rap, hip hop, R&B. Old school. I even sing opera. … For my 21st birthday, we did a socially-distant birthday party. We had a few friends over and family members, everybody had to wear masks and we had cake. It was good. It was a team effort. … I make my family smile. I make them laugh. I’m very social. I shave and I learned how to do that really fast. I picked it up in no time. I have a brother, a sister, two nieces, two nephews and a dog, Shy. She’s 14 years old. She’s still pretty active. She goes in our bags if we sit them down, she goes sniffing in it. They’re all my friends. We have fun together.”
#50for50: Volume 49 ▪️ David Welsh ▪️ 35 years old ▪️ Montgomery County
“A friend of mine was very much involved with Special Olympics, so I was curious about it and my mom signed me up in Fall 2001. Now, it didn’t just start out as ice skating. The first sport I participated in was volleyball. And basketball and softball as well. But then in the fall of 2006, I was busy dealing with my last semester at Delaware County Community College, so I dropped all those sports with the exception of figure skating. Ever since then I’ve been focused primarily on figure skating. … I just remember the more years I went along with it the more confident I became with my performances and the more confidence my coaches had in me. At first, oh yeah, it was difficult. I had never skated before. It was always difficult just keeping my balance on the ice. Every year subsequently my head coach, Keith, would just keep giving me bigger and newer things to practice on the ice. Things he feels would greatly benefit me as an ice skating performer. Mainly, they’re things that require me to do 180-degree turns on one foot or anything in which, it’s very challenging, that challenges my comfortability on the ice. Knowing Keith, he’s really been pushing me and I know that he’s doing so because he knows how much more I can excel on the ice. … My first state tournament occurred in 2003. That year I was a senior in high school. Every subsequent state tournament, as far as ice skating was concerned, I couldn’t go to it either because I was in college at the time or just because I couldn’t take the time off from work. It’s also because I’m involved with a lot of community theater performances, so the rehearsals may have conflicted. But in 2015 Keith really wanted me to come back to the state tournaments. He called my mom to have her convince me to come back. So I came back. And I went there and I got the gold medal and apparently so many people were proud of me. One of them was my Township Commissioner and I got a Township Proclamation as a result of that accomplishment. I went back every subsequent year and it just made me realize how proud I am to be a part of something bigger than myself. … In the summer of ’04, my mom signed me up for a theater day camp at Archbishop Carroll High School. The high school I went to at that time didn’t have a drama program. The experience was very new to me. I tried it and I loved it and it’s one of those things I’ve kept doing every year since because of how fun it has been. … Both Keith and I have incorporated a lot of what I use in community theater into my performance on the rink. Any choreography move that I may have learned on the stage or seen in another stage performance, we use it. … The biggest role I had to tackle was the Cowardly Lion in a one-act performance of the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ I had to do a lot of memorizing my lines. It was a big role. It was just a matter of remembering my lines and incorporating them onto the stage. It gives me an outlet to be creative, to perform. … For work, I’m a lab technician at a neurobiology lab at St. Joseph’s University. I make sure everything is ready for the lab students, make sure we have a clean environment. Because we’re prone to several inspections during the year. We had two surprise federal inspections this past week and we passed both of them. I’ve been at that job seven years and I very much so like it. … As great as it is to be part of figure skating, it’s a lot more awesome experience just to be a part of Special Olympics in and of itself. Just because when we get together during these various state tournaments, we compete at our own individual levels but once we’re off the rink or the court or whatever it is, that competitive attitude is left there at the rink and we can be as friendly as we can.”
We started the #StrideChallenge on Oct. 19. Since then, athletes and Unified partners across Pennsylvania have ran, walked and rolled their way to more than 11,000 total miles!!
We wanted to share one story that was particularly touching from Lisa Barbour in Philadelphia. Here’s what she wrote:
“My name is Lisa Barbour I am a Special Olympics PA Philadelphia athlete. I started doing At Home training so that I could continue working on my sports training. I also, wanted to lose weight and build up my endurance. I wanted to help myself be healthier and last longer in the game. I am also, doing the Fitness Stride Challenge with my sister, Michelle.
I originally signed myself up for the Stride Challenge for 25 miles. Recently, Michelle and I did Healthy Lifestyles Athlete training, so I could become a Health and Fitness Coordinator. That was when Michelle heard about the Stride Challenge. I told her that I was already signed up. Michelle said that we could still do it as a unified team. She said we could do 200 miles. My reply to her was “200 Miles! I don’t think I can do that much plus my 25.” My sister, Michelle said I think you can. Remember you walk your dog, Khalessi at least 2 to 3 miles a day. My sister walks her dog, Roper everyday as well as part of our challenge. As I write this today, November 16th we have only 60 miles left to meeting our goal of 200. I am so excited and proud of myself for taking on this challenge.
As a result of doing this Fitness Stride Challenge and At-Home Sports Training, I have beat my personal best for the 10 meter soccer dribble going from 12 seconds to now being able to do it within 9 seconds. I also lost weight, a total of 23 pounds and I am in better shape and I feel great! I feel healthier and I can’t wait for the Heptathlon Challenge to start so that I can do more work-outs and trainings. Commit to Fit is awesome!”
#50for50: Volume 48 ▪️ David Miller ▪️ 35 years old ▪️ Montgomery County
“I’ve been with Special Olympics since 2014. I used to live in New York for a while and I saw my friends did it. I moved back home and I was looking for a team, so I Googled ‘Special Olympics Pennsylvania’ and that’s how I found out. And then I emailed coach Scott [Otterbein]. Then the next week I was off to practice. It was that quick. I was not in shape for it all, so it was hard at first. … I was living in White Plains, New York to go to school. It was a vocational program, a three-year program. It was cool. It was fun. I learned stuff like how to live on my own and a lot of things. But I was born in Philly. My friend asked me why I didn’t join [Special Olympics] sooner? But I didn’t know about it. If I knew, I would have done it a long time ago. I was watching old YouTube highlights from the past 50 years and I was like, ‘damn, that’s really interesting.’ … I was somewhat athletic growing up. I wasn’t in great shape, even though I did it. Track and field was my first sport. It was tough at first. It was tough running and also tough changing my diet. I was eating junk food. A lot of junk food. And I got sick with a stomach thing, stomach problems. It was 3 a.m., I went to bed and then at 6 in the morning I knew I was in trouble. It was like four days in the hospital. The doctor came in and knew why it was happening and that kind of got my attention real quick. It was a blockage. I was sick as a kid. I had all these surgeries and all this scar tissue was building up inside my intestines. I didn’t even notice it. And if they do surgery, it would cause more scar tissue and cause more problems. So I went home and threw a lot of things out. It was kind of eye opening. … I like talking to people. That’s why I do what I do [and teach people about healthy habits]. There were some people who I don’t really know personally, but I could tell they were eating bad or they were drinking too much soda. But I think I got their attention. I eat lots of fruits, lots of vegetables. I definitely drink lots of water. I eat lots of multigrain bread, ham and cheese. It’s so much different. I really feel better. I feel much lighter. Now I’m finally healthy. I still struggle sometimes because I have tendonitis, but before that I was in the zone. … I also play basketball and one day I want to do flag football. My favorite memory was carrying the torch for the first time ever. It was my first year down in Philly and I carried the torch for Villanova. They were like, ‘oh, here ya go,’ and here’s the torch out of nowhere. I didn’t expect it. I almost dropped it, it was so heavy. It was great. … I work at Villanova’s dining hall Monday through Friday and on Sundays I work at Wawa. With ‘Nova on break for COVID, now I’m at Wawa more. At first, [the pandemic] was frustrating because I felt really good coming into the new year and then this happened. It’s disappointing ’cause I was ready to go. But I’ve been running at home, doing yoga and workouts from home. We text a lot, we talk a lot, my team, to see how everyone is doing. I’m itching to get back to next season. It’s gonna be great when we get back and we’re allowed to hug. I’m just looking forward to seeing all my people again.”