Jacob is a Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete from Lycoming County who competed in bocce at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
Throughout three levels of competition (singles, doubles and team) Jacob captured two gold medals and one silver on the sport’s biggest stage.
We took a moment to catch up with Jacob and talk about his sport, his family and his experience in Orlando.
“I’ve been playing bocce for a year now, but I’ve been swimming all my life. When I got into this it was new to me, but I thoroughly enjoy it and I want everybody else to enjoy it. There are probably people who are like, ‘oh, it’s just an old man’s game, there’s nothing to it.’ But if you just see how everybody else is acting, how they like this game, you would cherish it too. …
I’m glad I came here to experience this – not everyone can say that they came to Orlando to participate in the USA Games and say they came out with a gold medal. The match was back and forth, but once I heard ‘one point, red’ and I won the match, it felt invigorating. I felt a sense of euphoria after that. I was just so happy and overjoyed. I just had a smile on my face that I couldn’t get rid of. Even after this is all over and everyone goes home, they’ll remember the days that they were in Orlando for the USA Games. And they should hold onto that with pride and integrity. …
I am a man that wants to see others happy, wants to see others succeed and wants to help. I just want to be that person that people can count on, cry on their shoulder, and know that when things are going bad, there’s always a light at the end of the darkness. …
When it comes to this sport and [Special Olympics], you feel like you are in a special group and a special society, you feel like there are people who care about you when no one else does. Special Olympics has been my family ever since I started this and I would not have it any other way. …
My dad dying in a coma accident was the hardest part [of my life]. It was tough but I managed to overcome it and push forward. I said, ‘I can’t let this depression hold me down and have me be such a downer.’ I was 16 or 17 when he died and I’m 27, going to be 28. When I compete, I dedicate all my matches for swimming and bocce to my dad. And even [in Orlando], I still dedicate all my matches to my dad to this day. …
If I were to see his face right now, he would say that he would be proud of me and that I just should strive on and keep on going, never give up and keep on doing what you’ve been doing. I can’t add anything further to that, just to say that I hope he’s doing well.”
The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando came to a close one week ago today! We can’t believe it’s already been a week since we celebrated all of our incredible Team Pennsylvania athletes. And, in honor of this anniversary, we wanted to publish this list of ALL the medals and awards won by our incredible team during our time in Florida! We’re so proud of all the coaches, athletes, staff and everyone in-between who made this possible! Stay tuned for photo albums from USA Games and Summer Games coming in the next two weeks!
TEAM PENNSYLVANIA – 2022 Special Olympics USA Games TOTAL MEDALS: 99 (35 Gold, 31 Silver, 33 Bronze) Team Sports
(Patrick Carney, Shane Frank, Ethan Fraterman, Corey Gerber, Patrick Montgomery, Jordan Schubert, Daveon Wheeler)
Flag Football, Bronze
(Devon Clements, Lenwood Dennis, Lavar Gladden, Kenneth Lamont, Denzel McFadden, Abdul Muhammad, JaBari Patterson, Christopher Ray, Andre Richardson, Jose Serrano, Paris Wallace)
(Shawn Andrews, Johnathan Ashton, Tyler Baumgartner, Greg Bazzoli, Kathryn Day, Nancy Grimm, Justin Guthrie, Joshua Hubbard, Andrew Knight, Jackson Knight, Andrew Mayer)
(Nathan Boyle, Karla Garr, Daniel Hogan, Seth Holland, Brandon Krekeler, Donald Laudenslager, Joshua Moore, Bradley Moyer, Timothy Moyer, Christina Saraceno, Hilary Stonewall, Joni Talavera, Christian Vegas, Audrey Yanacek, Christopher Wasiewicz)
(Todd Corman, John Garlock, Emily Koontz, James Milliken, Austin Milliken, Chris Nichols, TJ Richert, Jon Richert, Dena Russ, Christian Shangraw, McKenzie Wagner, Greg Zimmerman)
Sydney Benner Gold, mini-javelin Fifth, 100m Eighth, 200m
Jason Bilger Sixth, mini-javelin Sixth, 200m Eighth, 100m
Tabatha Bilger Gold, mini-javelin Fourth, 100m walk Fourth, 400m walk
Maria Daniella Brandt Gold, 5k Gold, 10k Silver, 3000m
Jordan is a Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete and also a Special Olympics Pennsylvania staff member. He’s our Manager of Athlete Leadership & Young Athletes.
This is his first Special Olympics USA Games and yesterday he scored 12 points to lead his basketball team to a 39-18 win against North Dakota.
We caught up with Jordan to ask him about the game, the experience and life in general. Here’s what he said:
“I felt like it was everything I thought of and more. I was a little nervous but as soon as we got inside [the arena], I sat down and closed my eyes for a bit and tried not to think about anything. Tried not to look around. Just look at the court I was playing on and focus on one thing at a time. I’ve been hot and cold a lot, especially without having played many games in two years. The thing I pride myself on more than my shooting is my defense. When that works my offensive game will take care of itself. …
[Jordan held up 10 fingers to the crowd after his fifth bucket] That’s how I tell people that I reached double digits. I started doing it as a tribute to Ron Santo. Growing up a Cubs fan, he was always one of my inspirations how he struggled with diabetes but worked hard every day to be the great baseball player he was. I just also want to thank my coaches. They’re a big reason why we’re here. They push us to do better each day. …
I think any athlete that pursues a leadership opportunity, they’re first and foremost an athlete. I’m very fortunate with my work that they allow me to compete. It’s well worth it and, if anything, I’ve made a lot of friends because of it that I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t work for SOPA. …
I’m always interested in hearing what people like to do, where they’re from, their stories. That’s part of my job, just hearing how people got involved and what Special Olympics means to them. But I also think it means a great deal to be here with people after two years of not having anything. This is significant.”
Please help us in congratulating this year’s Sheetz Family Award of Excellence winner, Brendan Rooker from Lycoming County!
The Sheetz Family Award of Excellence recognizes the athlete whose determination and effort can only be understood by the power of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and inspire greatness.
This year, despite training all season to compete in swimming, Brendan graciously offered to switch to basketball when he saw that his county would not be able to field a team without him. Despite not knowing much about the sport, Brendan trained hard, learned the game and supported his teammates in every possible way. His selflessness, dedication to his team and desire to always leave it out in the court is why Brendan was selected for this prestigious award.
Special thanks to Daillard Paris, Jr., Special Olympics Pennsylvania Board member and Director of Supply and Trading at Sheetz for presenting this award and for all he does to support our athletes!