Special Olympics athlete returns to Korea after finding his true home in USA

The upcoming competition in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea will hold special significance for Oregon USA athlete Henry Meece. Not only will he traveling thousands of miles to test his skills against other athletes from around the world, Henry will also be experiencing a homecoming, of sorts.

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Special Olympics World Winter Games have a special meaning for Henry Meece, who was born in Korea.

Henry’s Journey

Henry was born in Korea, where he started life in the hospital for many months due to complications at birth. He was then taken to live in a foster home before being adopted by a new family and welcomed to a new home in Portland, Oregon.  Fast-forward 22 years later and Henry, despite struggles that have come with his intellectual disability, has grown up to be an accomplished athlete.

Henry has been thinking about going to Korea for years - seeing where he was born and perhaps visiting with his foster family, who cared for him and visited him during all those hospitalizations when he was a baby. "We told him one day it would be the right time," says Nancy. "When he was selected for the World Winter Games in Korea we were totally blown away. I thought it was a joke and I wanted to see it in writing."


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Becoming a Family

It was the 1980s when Nancy and her husband Ted Meece found out they couldn't have children. They began to think about international adoptions, thanks to the shining example of Nancy's sister-in-law, who had been adopted from Korea. 

Nancy says she was emotionally prepared to become a mom, but was not as prepared for the amount of energy it takes to raise a child with disabilities. She stayed home with Henry full time the first four years. She says the most important thing she has ever done was be a parent to Henry.


Picture of a Champion

Despite the differences and challenges, Nancy says Henry has had the perfect upbringing, with the exception of not having any siblings. That's another reason she says Henry's involvement in Special Olympics and the support is so important. "My son can participate in an athletic event and I don't have to talk about the disability… It feels good that he can go somewhere and we don't have to write a three page paper about his disability," she says. "Special Olympics is a banner athletes can be proud of. It also gives the community a sense of pride for supporting it. It puts a positive face on disabilities."

Henry is not only an accomplished athlete. He just finished a one-year certificate in culinary assistant training at Portland Community College and is working with a job developer.

Nancy and Ted are traveling to Korea to watch their son compete. The trip conjures memories of all those years ago, when they first met their new baby at the airport. "I can't imagine living without him. I feel like whoever matched me up knew something. For me, it has been a perfect match. I can't imagine anything different."

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