July 31, 2017 | North America: Florida

Special Olympics has brought me pure joy!

By Vanessa Munoz

Special Olympics has changed me for a better person and many opportunities have arrived as soon as I was welcomed in the great organization.View Story Special Olympics has changed me for a better person and many opportunities have arrived as soon as I was welcomed in the great organization. My story all began in Miami where I had the privilege to work and spend my days with students in the Miami Learning Experience. Then, I was lucky enough to get accepted into the University of Florida. Little did I know that within the first week in Gainesville, I would join Special Olympics in Gainesville and be the Social Media Intern. I learned and saw the Unified Intramural Football and Basketball Team grow in a college town. I knew from the beginning that I had to be an advocate and spread the word on this great organization that changed my life. Summer was getting close and I wanted to continue expanding my horizons back home. That's when I started a summer internship in the Miami-Dade offices and now working as the Development intern. The essence of my mission is to support those who compete and triumph to change our lives.

About Vanessa Munoz: Currently a Senior at the University of Florida, Majoring in Political Science with a Minor in Disabilities in Society. Proud to serve as SO College President at UF and is part of the management team in Alachua County. Currently finishing summer internship as the Development intern in Miami-Dade County.
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July 25, 2017 | North America: Florida

Stolen Son

By Marie Anderson

The R WORD was never tolerated in our home. Whenever someone we knew or didn't know used that word, we let them know it was NOT ACCEPTABLE.View Story Our 3rd child Eric was born healthy & then at 18 months old had a very bad reaction at both injection sites from the MMR & DPT vaccines. Two days later he stopped talking and began engaging in strange behaviors. Some were harmful to him & others as well. When our last child was born Eric was 3 years old. He was diagnosed with autism. Our very long, difficult & exhausting journey began for him & our entire family. Whenever we went anywhere, people would stare and quietly talk. It was unbelievable that others would behave that way. It made us feel angry & sometimes ashamed of ourselves if we felt embarassed. But mostly it made us all love Eric even more & more protective too. We knew we had to be his voice and stand up for him. Sometimes we would confront those people but mostly pray for them to be less ignorant, insensitive & more understanding. The R WORD was never tolerated in our home. Whenever someone we knew or didn't know used that word, we let them know it was NOT ACCEPTABLE

About Marie Anderson: I am the very proud mother of 4 amazing children.I was blessed with Faith in God & a very helpful extended family. Also supportive parents that were there for us emotionally, physically & financially.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: Florida

Michelle Canazaro

By Special Olympics Staff

To train for winter sports, Michelle has no choice: she laces up her snow boots, straps on her skis, and heads to the beach -- even in blistering 90 degree heat.View Story To train for winter sports, Michelle has no choice: she laces up her snow boots, straps on her skis, and heads to the beach -- even in blistering 90 degree heat. As one of the few 2017 World Winter Games athletes from Florida, she had a challenge finding show and snowdrifts to practice her maneuvers. She's a multisport athlete who's been with Special Olympics since age 8 (nearly 20 years ago!) In 2017, she attended her first World Games in Austria. Michelle is also an athlete leader -- and a multisport athlete: competing in swimming, paddle boarding, bowling, softball, soccer, basketball and snowshoeing. She also likes to draw, paint, and sing when she’s not busy playing sports. She's a two-time gold medalist for paddle boarding in the State Games in Sarasota, Fla. She attended technical college and received a certificate from the Administrative Assistant program. She's now an office assistant at the Dan Marino Foundation, where she's worked for the last 3 years.

About Special Olympics Staff: Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: Florida

Land o' Lakes Unified Soccer Team

By Special Olympics Staff

The USA Unified soccer team from Land o' Lakes, Florida has played together for years -- and their hard work paid off as a USA team at the World Summer Games in 2015.View Story The USA Unified soccer team from Land o' Lakes, Florida has played together for years -- and their hard work paid off as a USA team at the World Games in 2015. It's a diverse team, with dedicated athletes and unified teammates – and a very proud coach. Vicky King says, "All these years, they’ve learned so much about each other – and are friends on the court, in the cafeteria –even at the mall.” Unified teammates include Cameron Hilgenberg, who's been playing Unified Sports since he was 12 years old. Now in college, Cameron still comes back to play and practice with his Unified soccer teammates. Even though he plays on his college baseball team, Cameron says that training can't beat his Unified soccer workout. Plus it's not as much fun. "Playing unified is never dull, there's always something entertaining going on," he says. The team laughs a lot and enjoys hanging out together. Their teamwork has led them to four state titles in a row!

About Special Olympics Staff: Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: Florida

Andy Miyares

By Special Olympics Staff

Being different never kept Andy Miyares out of the pool; in fact, it's what got him in the water in the first place.View Story Being different never kept Andy Miyares out of the pool; in fact, it's what got him in the water in the first place. Andy was born with Down syndrome. When he was very young, his mother Ana noticed he struggled with muscle control. She thought the pool would be a great environment for him to strengthen his body and gain more control. She started Andy off in the water at nine months; he progressed to competitive swimming by the age of 6. Since then, Andy's swimming career has brought him to Special Olympics and competitions around the world. In recent years, he's moved on to open water swimming -- one of the few athletes with Down syndrome to participate. He completed his first 5 km open water training swim in Biscayne Bay in 1 hour 45 minutes.

About Special Olympics Staff: Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: Florida

Brittany Tagliareni

By Special Olympics Staff

Brittany has been a dominant force in local and international tennis circuits since she picked up a racket at 16 years old.View Story Brittany has been a dominant force in local and international tennis circuits since she picked up a racket at 16 years old. Now 27, she is a relentless competitor, who has discovered that focusing on her game also helps with her sensory and visual issues. In 2015, Brittany brought home the gold in singles and doubles tennis at the INAS World Tennis Championships and Special Olympics Florida State Championship. In July 2016, Brittany competed in the OrlandoUnited Double Tennis Open as a part of a Unified pair. Not only did she and her partner win gold, she was the only Special Olympics athlete to compete in the tournament! Off the court, Brittany volunteers at Dogs Unlimited and enjoys staying active in the pool and at the beach.

About Special Olympics Staff: Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: Florida

My Parents

By Madelyn H

Recently I heard my dad say the r-word. It bothers me, because I have a younger sister with Down syndrome.View Story Recently I heard my dad say the r-word. It bothers me, because I have a younger sister with Down syndrome. I know the kind of language my dad was using is hurtful to my sister's community, her self-esteem, and it puts her in a category that she doesn't belong in. Thankfully my dad has never said the r-word directly in front of my sister, but he has said it with her in mind. I don't know how to stand up to him. I don't know how to speak my mind about this issue. My dad is my idol, but I guess he was knocked down from the pedestal.

About Madelyn H:
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May 30, 2017 | North America: Florida

Special Olympics Changed My Daughter's Life

By Karina Pinedo

My daughter was afraid of the water. With the help of Special Olympics, she has become a swimmer who loves the water. That's not all.View Story My daughter was afraid of the water. With the help of Special Olympics, she has become a swimmer who loves the water. That's not all.My daughter's name is Samantha and she has autism. She was so afraid of the water that getting into a pool was very challenging. I had the opportunity to get her involved in swimming with Special Olympics Florida. With the help of the coaches, she felt encouraged and lost her fear of swimming.She now has two favorite sayings that say a lot about what she has achieved. One is, "Anything is possible if you try," and the other is, "Different not less."Every time she gets in the pool she feels free, relaxed, confident. She believes in herself in way I could not have expected.In Special Olympics she has found a big family, with many people cheering for her. She has also made friends. By being so involved in my daughter's swimming, our family has grown closer. As her mom, I have learned to appreciate the little things in life. It's been just three years since she started taking part in Special Olympics competitions. Samantha is now training and competing in soccer, gymnastics and cheerleading. Special Olympics is the best thing that has happened to her and our family.

About Karina Pinedo: I'm the mom of my beautiful daughter Samantha. I'm also a marathon runner. My last marathon was in New York City, which I dedicated to my daughter and the autism community. My daughter Samantha has been in Special Olympics for three years for aquatics. She loves swimming and cheerleading.
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May 25, 2017 | North America: Florida

The way Special Olympics Has made Me Feel Happy

By Nataly H

I started in Special Olympics way back in 2009. I made it all the way to state games but sadly got sick the day before my swim.View Story I started in Special Olympics way back in 2009. The very first sport I competed in was swimming and I made it all the way to state games but sadly got sick the day before my swim heat but I was very proud that I made it that far! I have also have competed in bowling and have gotten better at it over the years and this year I hope to make a comeback in swimming to see if I can make it to 2017 state games for swimming for Florida!

About Nataly H: I'm 27 years old about to be 28 next month and have been in this program for eight years now
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May 08, 2017 | North America: Florida

Special Olympics changed my life. Here's how it can change yours too!

By Javier Guerrero

Although I have been involved in Special Olympics as a volunteer since my sixth grade year, I first had the opportunity to participate in unified sports in my freshman year.View Story Although I have been involved in Special Olympics as a volunteer since my sixth grade year, I first had the opportunity to participate in unified sports on the Doral Special Olympics Softball team my freshman year. After working with these incredible athletes and competing at the State Summer Games, where we won bronze, I was inspired to try to increase awareness about individuals with intellectual disabilities in my local community. I decided to start a school program at Belen, and this year, we officially founded Belen's first-ever unified sports team, the Belen Jesuit Wolfpack, of which I am proud to serve as its head coach. After qualifying for Special Olympics Florida's State Basketball Games in our first ever season, the Wolfpack won the silver medal in its division, and is now preparing for the State Summer games after placing first in our Area Soccer Games. I encourage you to get involved in Special Olympics Florida as soon as you can, and hopefully, decide to continue working with our remarkable athletes.

About Javier Guerrero: Javier Guerrero is currently a junior at Belen Jesuit in Miami, Florida and is the Unified Champion Schools Chairperson for Miami-Dade County. He is proud to have founded Belen Jesuit's unified sports team, the Belen Jesuit Wolfpack, and serve as its head coach.
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May 02, 2017 | North America: Florida

My Paddle Board Story

By Michael Gibbons

Let's do this

My name is Michael Gibbons, and I compete in bowling, power lifting, softball and paddle boarding.View Story My name is Michael Gibbons, I am an athlete from Escambia County Florida. I compete in various sports competitions including bowling, power lifting, softball,and paddle boarding. The interesting thing about this competition for me is that I am the only wheel chair athlete in my county who competes in paddle boarding. And I won second place. I have been a Special Olympics athlete for 14 years and have had many fun memories.

About Michael Gibbons: My Name is Michael Gibbons, I am Vice President of the input counsel Escambia County I have had training in ALPS, Governance, Global Messinger, email-internet. I compete in bowling, softball, powerlifting, wheel chair racing, and bocce and have many fun memories.
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March 12, 2017 | North America: Florida

Special Olympics is so much Fun

By Brittany Benton

I joined Special Olympics this year. I do tennis. It's so much fun. I love my coaches and meet lots of friends.View Story I joined Special Olympics this year. I do tennis. It's so much fun. I love my coaches and meet lots of friends.

About Brittany Benton : My name is Brittany I just started tennis for fun spechial olympics i love it made lots of friends
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February 27, 2017 | North America: Florida

Special Olympics Volleyball

By Chelsey Powers

My first year of Special Olympics was so amazing. It was amazing!View Story My first year of Special Olympics was so amazing. It was amazing! I love all the coaches and athletes. You get the friendship with other people, you get to know one another. I have been playing for three years.

About Chelsey Powers: i play volleyball for seminole county, i have played for 3 years
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November 14, 2016 | North America: Florida

My Life with Special Olympics

By sarah

I love my life with Special Olympics. My favorite sports are bowling, horse back riding and gymnastics, too.View Story I love my life with Special Olympics. My favorite sports are bowling, horse back riding and gymnastics, too. I have been doing this since I was 14 years old. I never give up. I enjoy it so much. I am not a loser I think about first place. I am trying my best

About sarah: I am 37 years old. I work at publix. I have been there for 18 years. I love my job. I am a woman. I also love my life and with Patrick my boyfriend. And Dena is my foster sister
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October 25, 2016 | North America: Florida

Uncle with Down Syndrome

By Alisha Cranford

This story is about my uncle James Ray. James Ray was born with Down syndrome. The doctors advised my grandparents to have him institutionalized.View Story This story is about my uncle James Ray. James Ray was born with Down syndrome. The doctors advised my grandparents to have him institutionalized, simply because they believed that my uncle wouldn't live past 13 years of age. Both of my grandparents' believed strongly in God. They held firmly to their faith, and with God's help James Ray was able to live until he was 57 yrs. old.

About Alisha Cranford :
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October 05, 2016 | North America: Florida

"I have extra abilities"

By Amie Dugan

Through sports and Special Olympics, a 19-year-old multi-sport athlete from Tampa, Florida has found his voice. Literally.View Story At six-foot-four, Thomas Shervington was born to play basketball. And tennis. And softball. And soccer. And golf. And bocce. The reason extends well beyond his size and athleticism, however. Through sports and Special Olympics, the 19-year-old from Tampa, Florida has found his voice. Literally. Diagnosed with autism at three years old, Shervington couldn’t string sentences together until six years ago when his parents encouraged him to join Special Olympics. Today, not only does he proudly boast 10 state medals in various sports, but he speaks to audiences all over Tampa and its surrounding area as a global messenger, touting the benefits of the very program that connects him to the world, and fills his heart to the brim. “He has grown from a shy withdrawn child who could hardly speak to anyone to someone who’s out there motivating and encouraging other people,” his mother, Buffie, said. Read full article by Kim Constantinesco at the link below.

About Amie Dugan: I am the Director, Marketing and Communications for Special Olympics North America
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September 29, 2016 | North America: Florida

How I Overcome

By Katie

I have intellectual disability and it not fair to say those words. I dislike that word. Lots of people used to call me that.View Story I have intellectual disability and it not fair to say those words. I dislike that word. Lots of people used to call me that.

About Katie: I love horses
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September 06, 2016 | North America: Florida

R - for Real special.

By Letty Vargas-Lopez

Me and my Champ!

I never have been fond of the R-word, and now as a mom of a child with two neurological disorders I despise it.View Story I never have been fond of the R-word, and now as a mom of a child with two neurological disorders I despise it even more. I want to believe most people that use the term don’t mean any harm in it, but what most people seem to overlook is the impact words can have on a person. The R-word is a very ugly word. Until someone has been blessed with the opportunity to know a person with disabilities, they’ll miss out on all the unique abilities these special individuals have. They have many qualities such as, compassion, understanding, acceptance, intellect and innocence the majority of the population lacks. Yes, they’re different from the rest of society in many ways, but that in itself is exactly what makes them so extraordinary.

About Letty Vargas-Lopez: I'm a registered nurse and a mom of two handsome boys ages 9 and 7. My youngest is autistic who also suffers from intractable epilepsy.
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August 22, 2016 | North America: Florida

child

By sarah

I've been in Special Olympics for 14 years. I enjoyed it so much.View Story I've been in Special Olympics for 14 years. When I was 14 years old I loved going to Special Olympics horseback riding, and when I was 8 I was in gymnastics. I kept going and then I went to swimming. I enjoyed it so much.

About sarah: I am in Special Olympics for 14 years. I do have fun. There's a lot of people who I can talk to but mostly I talk about my family and my mom. Special Olympics is for donations and to be together.
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August 15, 2016 | North America: Florida

Being An Athlete

By Connor Snitko

I'm also on the basketball team

I won three gold medals for downhill ski for seven years. I am on a swimming team at Special Olympics and won the butterfly race as a gold medalist.View Story I won three gold medals for downhill ski for seven years. I am on a swimming team at Special Olympics and won the butterfly race as a gold medalist.

About Connor Snitko: I was an athlete for seven years in skiing and I also swim for Special Olympics.
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June 13, 2016 | North America: Florida

"Ali Bug"

By By Gina Warren

She was born with many challenges. But Alicen has accomplished far more than anyone expected her to when she was born.View Story On Feb. 21, 1998 Alicen Diane Warren came into this world 3 1/2 months early (25 weeks) weighing just under 2 pounds.

After defying medical odds and living through her first 24 hours, she would spend the next 2 months battling one hurdle after another. A couple being a grade IV hemorrhage(in her brain) and Meningitis that spread to the lining of her brain. The Doctors as gently as possible told her parents that if she survived the meningitis at best she would be a vegetable. They were informed that Alicen would not grow up to walk, talk, or feed herself. Both Mom and Dad tried to remain as positive as possible.

Mom recalls praying that she would just grow up to know that God created her for a purpose. Dad had visions of pushing his daughter in a wheel chair and hoped she would at least get some kind of joy out of football. Eighteen years later and Alicen's parents have both received what they dreamed for, their little girl and far more.

At the age of 9 Alicen was invited to participate in Special Olympics by her up coming 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Virgina McDaniel. Her parents graciously accepted the invitation for her to participate. Their hearts swelled with pride that first year as their daughter walked in her 25m race.
Both of them remembering back to the day they where told she would never walk. Mom recalls very vividly the over sized t-shirt and tiny legs going as fast as they could possibly go.

Alicen really had no idea the magnitude of what she had done as her first medal was placed around her neck. She did however know she had done something big. She had a new kind of confidence. A tiny athlete with the spirit of a giant had been born.

Alicen would go on to join Karate with her brother where her love for sports grew. She eventually joined the local Special Olympic basketball team. Her love for sports became even greater after earning a gold medal at basketball.

About By Gina Warren: I am both a parent and a coach. Alicen is my daughter I am VERY proud of the athlete she has become. Thank you Special Olympics for the opportunity you have given my daughter. She has been able to help to bridge the gap that exist between the world of a typical high school athlete and that of a "Special Needs" athlete. I have included a link to our local news channel 13 story that was aired. The Orlando Sentinel also covered Ali's story the Friday of State games. While it has been amazing the support Alicen has received as she has accomplished an amazing goal. I couldn't help but stand in awe when I took the time to look into the stands at summer games as I thought to myself "look there are 1800 inspirational athletes who are being given the chance to be ATHLETES...again THANK YOU Special Olympics for ALL that you do.
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May 31, 2016 | North America: Florida

Seeing new and old athlete leaders, members, friends

By Morgan Vandenberg

I have seen so many athlete leaders from different counties at competitions, at the Polar Plunge and at athlete leadership training.View Story I have seen so many athlete leaders from different counties at competitions, at the Polar Plunge and at athlete leadership training. Some I try to stay in contact with. I love being an athlete leader.

About Morgan Vandenberg: I am 27yrs old. I grow up in Jupiter. I was a student at Jupiter High School. I was on the high school swim team. In 2006 I went to Ames Iowa for the Special Olympics national games for swimming. I came home with gold and silver medals. I now compete in bowling, swimming ,standup paddle, track, and basketball. I have a job at Winn-Dixie as a bagger. I am a member of the athlete leadership program and also a global messenger .
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May 13, 2016 | North America: Florida

Children's Center in Florida Gets Active

By Kory Blair

On Friday, April 29, more than 44 residents of Sabal Palms Children's Center, located at The Palms of Largo in Florida, participated in a Field Day Event.View Story On Friday, April 29, more than 44 residents of Sabal Palms Children's Center, located at The Palms of Largo in Florida, participated in a Field Day Event! They completed skill-based activities they had learned throughout the year through the Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program and Young Athletes Program. Whereas most people are familiar with Special Olympics, MATP and Young Athletes are components of the program that are lesser known, but equally as important. Sabal Palms Children's Center is proud to be the only officially registered MATP program in Pinellas County and one of the only residential center-based programs throughout the state. The athletes have been working on skills taught through both curriculums on a weekly basis for the past year. The Field Day Event and Special Olympics MATP Challenge Day provided the perfect opportunity for the children to showcase their skill to their families and friends, as well as receive awards for their hard work. The event was made possible by Special Olympics Florida, Special Olympics Pinellas County, Sabal Palms Health Care Center and the 26 volunteers who attended the event, including a group of students from Lift You Academy Transition Program and eight staff members from Optum.

About Kory Blair: Kory Blair is a CTRS, and Director of Life Enrichment at Sabal Palms Children's Center. She has been coaching Special Olympics for over 15 years.
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April 19, 2016 | North America: Florida

Dale's best day ever!

By Bernice Willever

This was the first time Dale ran in a Special Olympics competition. I don't know who had more fun, him running or us watching.View Story This was the first time Dale ran in a Special Olympics competition. I don't know who had more fun, him running or us watching. He doesn't realize that there is a first, second or third place, he just knows he won!!! Thank you to all who make this possible for these special children.

About Bernice Willever: I am the proud mother of Dale, who is 12. Dale has an older sister and younger brother. We live in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I was born and raised. Dale's father, also Dale is from NJ.
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March 26, 2016 | North America: Florida

Learning

By Sarah Earl

I love to learn all about Special Olympics. I have been doing this since I was 14 years old and I still do.View Story I love to learn to to take volleyball and cycling horseback riding. I love to learn all about Special Olympics. I have been doing this since I was 14 years old and I still do. I enjoyed doing this I do try my best to do that. It is fun my mom wants me to be athletic and do other things

About Sarah Earl: I am 36 years old I live in Bishop Grady villas for.12 years I work at Publix. I have been working for 18 years. I was born in Lakeland, Florida
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March 14, 2016 | North America: Florida

Celebrating the Achievement of One of Our Athletes

By Linda Altner

One of our athletes, Joe DePompa, has taken the Coaches' Certification exam and passed!View Story I am one of the Coaches of The Rising Stars, a Special Olympics' volleyball team. One of our athletes, Joe DePompa, has taken the Coaches' Certification exam and passed. He is a Special Olympics athlete and this is an achievement worth celebrating. He has an excellent knowledge of the game and is encouraging toward other athletes. We are proud of his achievement which came only with his hard work and encouragement from his coaches to believe in himself.

About Linda Altner: I am a retired teacher who has volunteered several years of my time, along with my husband Sid, working with athletes in Special Olympics volleyball and bowling. I have two sons, one is a Special Olympics athlete. In addition to Special Olympics, I have also organized many social outings for our Rising Star athletes to enhance their life experiences and create additional social opportunities for them. I have enjoyed bringing happiness into their lives, and my son's, through positive experiences and encouraging achievement.
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March 07, 2016 | North America: Florida

Love Everyone

By Wendi Gainey

Sissy and my Dad... Her favorite Brother in law

My Aunt "Sissy" is 62 years old. She'll be 63 in May. I cannot imagine anyone ever using that word towards her.View Story My Aunt "Sissy" is 62 years old. She'll be 63 in May. I cannot imagine anyone ever using that word towards her. She is a true blessing to our family and we thank God daily that we've still got here around!

About Wendi Gainey: I'm 34. Niece of a wonderful, full of life young woman with Downs.
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February 29, 2016 | North America: Florida

The Perfect Slice of Life

By Katrina Langworthy

I became fond of this girl who was a little older than me at that time, she loved softball.View Story I became fond of this girl who was a little older than me at that time, she loved softball. Her coordination was slightly off, she always joked about it. She had a physical disability in her arms and hands, but it didn't slow her down any. I always think of her when I am cutting a pizza. Because every now and then we would have pizza parties and our athletes if able, were allowed to cut the pizza. Her slices were not perfect as she would run the slicer this way and that way. Not in typical triangle slices but some were square, some in funny shapes, a few regulars but it didn't matter. She was picked on one day as she was told "That's not how you cut pizza." Throwing the slicer and ran away crying. The boys were scolded and I found my friend and gave her the slicer, told her to please come and cut my pizza. When I cut my pizza I do it like she did. I do not know what had become of her but she taught me a lot.

About Katrina Langworthy: I got involved with Special Olympics when I was in my late 20's as apart of community service it was the best experience I have ever had. I am now 50 and I would like to get involved again, but I am dealing with my own disabilities.
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February 26, 2016 | North America: Florida

Teaching Starts at Home

By Stacy Doyle

We do not use the "R" word in the home and I correct my youngest sons friends when they use it. The Teaching starts at HOMEView Story My son is 24 with CACC, mild CP and his left frontal brain lobe collapsed. He was in special education do to slower learning his entire life. He has defended so many of his friend with disabilities in these classes over the years ( because he is so high functioning) his disabilities aren't apparent to others so he wasn't really bullied but his friends were. We do not use the "R" word in the home and I correct my youngest sons friends when they use it. The Teaching starts at HOME

About Stacy Doyle : I work at Home Depot in the Garden Dept, My Husband is a CWO3 USN of 27 years still active and we have 5 children, two dogs and two cats.. Devon is our only child with learning disabilities
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February 16, 2016 | North America: Florida

I'm Carrying the Torch Again

By Monica Hernandez

My name is Monica hernandez from special Olympics Seminole County and I have been involved in special Olympics Seminole County for almost 20 years the past two years I have the torch run for Seminole County and this year i get to do it again I compete in basketball this year I am competing in volleyView Story My name is Monica Hernandez from Special Olympics Seminole County and I have been involved in Special Olympics for almost 20 years. The past two years I have run in the torch run for Seminole County and this year I get to do it again. I compete in basketball. This year I am competing in volleyball and I am also a part of the Seminole County athlete input council.

About Monica Hernandez: I'm Monica from Florida.
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January 15, 2016 | North America: Florida

In Memoriam: Honoring the life of Athlete Leader Mark Swiconek

By Amie Dugan

One of Special Olympics’ greatest and first athlete leaders, Mark Swiconek, passed away Monday, January 11. Words cannot express the esteem and gratitude countless people within Special Olympics had for Mark, and the impact he made on the movement.View Story One of Special Olympics’ greatest and first athlete leaders, Mark Swiconek, passed away Monday, January 11. Words cannot express the esteem and gratitude countless people within Special Olympics had for Mark, and the impact he made on the movement. His unfailing and tremendous grace, wisdom, humor, passion, and willingness to take on new challenges and push boundaries on behalf of Special Olympics made him a beloved and deeply revered leader of the movement. He was a blend of fun-loving athlete and colleague, mentor, and stately gentleman that could connect with and inspire people from all walks of life. During his 35+ years as a Special Olympics athlete and leader, he lived and breathed Special Olympics and never lost sight of the significance it played in his own life and the lives of his fellow athletes. When being interviewed, he was once asked “what would your life be like without Special Olympics?” Mark replied, “it wouldn’t be much of a life at all, it would only be existence.”

About Amie Dugan: SONA Marketing and Communications Director
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December 04, 2015 | North America: Florida

Abigail Adams, Beautiful in a Different Way

By Abigail Adams

I love to model and act!

My goal is to promote the skills of people with disabilities through my acting, modeling, and advocacy. Everyone has something great to offer the world!View Story Everyone has something great to offer the world! My goal is to promote the skills of people with disabilities through my acting, modeling, and advocacy. I just left the Florida Special Olympics games at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports where I competed in gymnastics. I loved it! I won medals in several events and had a great time hanging out with my friends, staying in the hotel, and socializing at the dance. I love gymnastics! It is fun to get on the high bar. And play with my friends. Swimming is fun and it makes me feel good! I get to meet with my friends and go eat afterwards.

About Abigail Adams: Abigail is many things for many people, Eye-catching Model, Talented Actress, and Advocate for Down syndrome. But for everybody, once you meet her, you know you have met a truly beautiful person!
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September 29, 2015 | North America: Florida

Differently -abled and loving them all!

By Cindy ASD Mom

Growing up I had lots of brothers. Two of my brothers had low IQ's and two other brothers had learning disabilities. They were harassed, bullied, beaten, etc. This made their lives at school a nightmare.View Story Growing up I had lots of brothers. Two of my brothers had low IQ's and two other brothers had learning disabilities. They were harassed, bullied, beaten, etc. This made their lives at school a nightmare. They would quietly spend their bus ride surrounding me (I was the only girl) and my other brothers. None of us said a word to each other, we knew what the day had held for our other four brothers and we glared at the other kids daring them to say one harsh word to them. When we got home there was alot of crying and holding each other because the world was so cruel. We all grew and some of us moved away, some literally stayed home and others were still trying to find their place. I became a mother of two boys! My six year old has Autism, low IQ and ADHD. He is enrolled in a special school in hopes to keep him from being bullied. He still is not protected 24/7, outside of everything, the world is still cruel. We all need to embrace our differences and accept what can't be changed.

About Cindy ASD Mom: Growing up around the differences made me different and I'm glad it did!
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September 02, 2015 | North America: Florida

My Little Friend

By My name is Allyson I am 11 and I am all for kids with disablity's. They are my favorite people.

I know a girl her name is Skyler, and she has Down syndrome. She is one of those girls who can do everything. She is a great cheerleader and dancer.View Story I know a girl her name is Skyler, and she has Down syndrome. She is one of those girls who can do everything. She is a great cheerleader and dancer. I love her like a little sister and anyone who calls her the R-word has issues. I stand against the R-word for all eternity!

About My name is Allyson I am 11 and I am all for kids with disablity's. They are my favorite people.: I have this club at my school called Best Buddies that I attend.
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August 31, 2015 | North America: Florida

A New Beginning A New LIFE

By Stephanie Cooper

I have just moved to Florida from Philadelphia. When I arrived in Florida I had nothing, only a bag with some clothes and my pocketbook. I felt my life stunk. I looked into Special Olympics and I saw their bowling team.View Story I have just moved to Florida from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When I arrived in Florida I had nothing, only a bag with some clothes and my pocketbook. I felt my life stunk. I looked into Special Olympics and I saw their bowling team. I have played with Special Olympics before. I did volleyball, basketball, track and field, and currently bowling. Every time I competed in Philadelphia Special Olympics, they were there with kindness and making sure that I felt like a great athlete. I was able to make the Volusia County Bowling team. When I arrived for the first time, I was welcomed with the same kindness that I received in Philadelphia. My aunt Linda Sanders and my good friend Renny Roker are always there to support me and the other athletes. Between Special Olympics, family, and the new friends I have just made, my new life, my new beginning will be a fantastic new adventure. The best part of my new life is that there is NO ICE OR SNOW.

About Stephanie Cooper : I am a Disney fan. I currently live in Flagler Beach with my aunt Linda Sanders and my good friend Renny Roker. I'm still trying to experience new things that Florida has to offer. I just have to get use to them. I have only been here a month but the best part is I do not have to worry about ice or snow.
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August 14, 2015 | North America: Florida

Christina Cooney...love ur cousin ,Melissa Sizemore

By Melissa sizemore

This is my cousin I grew up with.She is amazing and has such a kind spirit. This is why she loves her horses she rides. She is equestrian by birth.View Story This is my cousin I grew up with.She is amazing and has such a kind spirit. This is why she loves her horses she rides. She is equestrian by birth. All of her life this is what she has done. I am so proud and happy she is getting honored for her life long achievements. Thank u so much for this experience for her . And for her to be able to show the world her skills!!! Go Chrissy...go gold!!!

About Melissa sizemore: I am her cousin ..raised with her ...very proud of her.I am a business owner.I sell single stem roses in bar astablishments all over 2 counties.enough about me.It is all about Chrissy ..team Chrissy ...USA USA USA
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August 14, 2015 | North America: Florida

The Story about Myself

By Michael Rivera

I have loved basketball since I was 8 years old. I have grand mal seizure, ADHD; I’m currently in high school. Growing up was really hard for me because I didn’t have any friends at all, & I would get bullied a lot.View Story My name is Michael Rivera; I have loved basketball since I was 8 years old. I have grand mal seizure, ADHD; I’m currently in high school. Growing up was really hard for me because I didn’t have any friends at all, & I would get bullied a lot. My dad & I, we would watch the Miami Heat on T.V. & that’s when I started liking the sport Basketball. I always wanted to be part of a team, but because of my disability no one ever gave me the chance, till my parents moved to Orlando, FL & I started attending Winter Park HS. Thanks to coach Blackmon he gave me the chance to be the basketball team manager. Being part of Special Olympics has changed my life completely; I have won many ribbons and medals too. I’m also a FHSAA State Basketball Championship. My family is very proud of me of what I have accomplished, but I’m not done yet. My dream is to be a basketball coach and still be part of Special Olympics. I give my thanks to my parents for being there for me & supporting me even though it has been rough.

About Michael Rivera: My name is Michael Rivera; I love basketball since I was 8 years old. I have grand mal seizure, ADHD, and I’m Intellectual disabled. I’m currently in high school and I’m also 18 years old.
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August 11, 2015 | North America: Florida

4th Annual Athletes and Animals Bowling Fundraiser, July 26, 2015

By Michelle Stevens, WFTV 9-Family Coordinator

Stanley Steemer presents check to Special Olympics Florida

Brunswick Wekiva Lanes, Apopka, FL -- WFTV 9 Family Connection partner, Stanley Steemer of Central Florida held their 4th Annual Athletes & Animals.View Story Brunswick Wekiva Lanes, Apopka, FL -- WFTV 9 Family Connection partner, Stanley Steemer of Central Florida held their 4th Annual Athletes & Animals. The community came out and helped raise $19,500 for Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando and Special Olympics Florida. Both of these organizations split the money for these worthy causes. All who attended this event had a great time.

About Michelle Stevens, WFTV 9-Family Coordinator: N/A
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July 23, 2015 | North America: Florida

"He can't help it coach, he was born like that..."

By Joe Burley

Those were the sage words of wisdom were confided to me by a 40-year-old gentleman with Down syndrome who was a member of my Special Olympics team after witnessing another 8-year-old athlete eat his lunch when not supervised.View Story Those were the sage words of wisdom were confided to me by a 40-year-old gentleman with Down syndrome who was a member of my Special Olympics team after witnessing another 8-year-old athlete eat his lunch when not supervised. Though I anticipated an emotional outburst from my athlete as a result of his lost, beloved hamburger, I received this wonderfully enlightened and compassionate perspective of the needs and challenges of a younger peer. I was blessed to work with adults and children with disabilities in adult day training and residential settings. I cannot minimize the impact these men and women had on myself and my family in addition the life long friendships I acquired. I applaud the "R-word campaign" because contrary to the belief that people with the abilities are the ones in need, it is time to understand that the community around them needs to grow as well

About Joe Burley: I am currently the Athletic Director and Middle School History teacher at Florida Prep Academy. Previously, I worked for twenty years with adults and children with disabilities.
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July 22, 2015 | North America: Florida

Info about me

By Omar Brihoum

My family and close friends are very proud of me with my life playing golf. I played for high school and did great in it. When I play for Special Olympics I always win.View Story My name is Omar Brihoum. I'm a golfer. I've been doing it since March 2007 or age 11. I have autism and ADHD. I'm currently 19 years old and high school graduated. I just love my sport or my game of golf. My P.E coach in Elementary school was the first person to introduce to golf at the age of 11. I've won 2 states and 2 district championships for special Olympics. My family and close friends are very proud of me with my life playing golf. I played for high school and did great in it. My dream is to become a HVAC Technician and own my own company. When I play for Special Olympics I always beat everyone and win. My father is an electrical engineer and investor and my mother doesn't usually work but she has 2 masters degree in accounting and business. I graduated high school at Oak Ridge. I had a a lot of problems in my life being autistic it was very rough for me. Thank God to my parents, doctors and friends they have recovered me a lot.

About Omar Brihoum: I want to be published.
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July 11, 2015 | North America: Florida

Michael has a place he now belongs

By Paula Mueller

My son Michael is 18 years old. Taught him at a very young age. We always knew he loved swimming and was a fish in water. Tried a swim team a few years back, he wouldn't stay on task.View Story My son Michael is 18 years old. Taught him at a very young age. We always knew he loved swimming and was a fish in water. Tried a swim team a few years back, he wouldn't stay on task. This year we got connected with Special Olympics Polk County Florida. I went into this thinking what ever is, well, is! When said, "you never know", it is exactly that! He still needed a bit of redirect but HE DID IT! He trained, he did the laps...we had a few grunts but how PROUD was I. This was the moment he was ready for. Love you Mikey and very proud of you!!!!!

About Paula Mueller: I am the mother of Michael Mueller. I have been trying for years to help Michael find what would interest him. To broaden his social interactions, participate, gain self-esteem, self confidence and learn that when you do great thing, comes great rewards.
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June 11, 2015 | North America: Florida

RE: Bonne Jones

By Mary

Hi Bonne, I love how even though you can't really talk well, you already have multiple homes and you're driving!! Driving is already hard enough for most of the world, so I'm really glad that you can show everyone that it's easy for you.View Story Hi Bonne, I love how even though you can't really talk well, you already have multiple homes and you're driving!! Driving is already hard enough for most of the world, so I'm really glad that you can show everyone that it's easy for you and that you can do it!! I'm also glad that you have multiple homes. A lot of people only have one home, but I'm proud that you made the money to buy another home. God bless you!! - Love, Mary

About Mary: I'm a 14 year old girl!!...nothing else.
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June 10, 2015 | North America: Florida

Don't say R word please

By bonne jones

When I was a child I got called the R- Word. It hurted me and as I was growing and going to school, they used to call me the R-word and pulli my hair which it was long. Then they struck me.View Story When I was a child I got called the R- Word. It hurted me and as I was growing and going to school, they used to call me the R-word and pulli my hair which it was long. Then they struck me. That was bad. I cried to my mom and daddy to help. My brother helped me. When I was grown up, I had babyies of my own. And they're having kids, and I am now a grandma. I'm so happy. I could not talk good, but look at me now, buying another home and driving. Preaching gospel, amen.

About bonne jones: I'm a real person who had love age 57 yes old. I love everybody
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June 08, 2015 | North America: Florida

RE: Jason Winn

By Kyle

I read Jason's story. You're no different from anyone else!! The only thing that makes you different is the fact that you are more mature than them, and have a bigger heart.View Story I read Jason's story. You're no different from anyone else!! The only thing that makes you different is the fact that you are more mature than them, and have a bigger heart. I hope you enjoy your future science career along with your bowling buddies. Keep bowling and I love science too! :) I've gotten quite a few hits to my head... 5 concussions in the past 6 months. I have hearing problems, severe and often headaches, and permanent brain damage...but nobody notices!! If nobody can notice that, nobody will notice anything different about you...except the fact that you have a big heart. I also think that Stephen Hawking is an incredibly bright, witty, and clever man. One of my favorite quotes is this: "However difficult life might seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at." - Stephen Hawking. Jason Winn, keep thinking up those amazing ideas (Special Olympics Stadium), keep at the scientific thoughts, and enjoy life!! - Love, Kyle

About Kyle: I am a 14 year old boy with no disabilities, but many permanent things from concussions. Nobody knows!! Jason Winn, rock on!!
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May 27, 2015 | North America: Florida

Escort for the "Flame of Hope"

By Capt Jack Orr

Receiving the "Flame of Hope" in Athens, Greece.

I work for a Special Olympics sponsor UPS, and had the Honor of escorting the "Flame of Hope" on its first leg to the 2015 Special Olympic Games, Monday, May 18, 2015. On board a UPS B767 we transported the "Flame of Hope" from Athens, Greece to Cologne Germany where it continued its journey to the United States.View Story I work for a Special Olympics sponsor UPS, and had the Honor of escorting the "Flame of Hope" on its first leg to the 2015 Special Olympic Games, Monday, May 18, 2015. On board a UPS B767 we transported the "Flame of Hope" from Athens, Greece to Cologne Germany where it continued its journey to Philadepelphia then Washington DC in the US. Escorting the flame and meeting Special Olympic staff, volunteers, and atheletes in Greece and Germany was a humbling and emotional experience. One of which I shall never forget. I plan to witness the beginning of the Unified Torch relay on Tuesday, when it begins its historic journey Tuesday May 26 from Marlins Stadium in Miami, Fla to LA.

About Capt Jack Orr: I am an Assistant Chief Pilot and B767 Captain for UPS Airlines, living in Pembroke Pines, Fla. with Wife Millie. We have 3 children John, Tracy and Shannon, and 5 grandsons, Matthew, Samuel, Seth, Terri, and Jack.
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May 12, 2015 | North America: Florida

This is my story by Nataly H

By Nataly H

I got involved in Special Olympics Florida thanks to two friends of mine. I am a Special Olympics athlete for Seminole County. I got involved in Special Olympics in the year 2009 and I am still part of Special Olympics Seminole County.View Story My story is not too long so here goes: I got involved in Special Olympics Florida thanks to two friends of mine. I am a Special Olympics athlete for Seminole County. I got involved in Special Olympics in the year 2009 and I am still part of Special Olympics Seminole County. I used to be an assistant coach for volleyball and basketball for 5 years. I have competed in Special Olympics bowling and swimming, and this year I'm hoping to try out for Flag-football. I have made a lot of friends thanks to this program and coached many athletes who have become my friends and had many wonderful coaches and always thank our many volunteers for being there to help. My goal is simple, to inspire others with cerebral palsy to go out and be fit and active and to be brave in the attempt.

About Nataly H: I have CP and enjoy playing sports and making new friends along the way. I love what Special Olympics has done for me for the many years I have been doing it. Thanks for everything that you do and God bless this program. I love it so much!
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April 07, 2015 | North America: Florida

Jonathan

By Yesenia Acuna

I met this young man at a Valentines dance that John I.'s Student Government put together. While setting up this event, I felt really happy for the fact I made a difference.View Story I met this young man at a Valentines dance that John I.'s Student Government put together. While setting up this event, I felt really happy for the fact I made a difference. All the children from different schools came together and danced and laughed as if they knew eachother for years. There was no judging and there was no "R-Word" going around. My person that day, was Jonathan from Palm Beach Central. He invited me to join him on his big day, and that's where i'll be April 11th <3 I love you Jonathan and thank you for making an impact on my life.

About Yesenia Acuna: Working with children that have disabilities made my life more easy, and more comforting because seeing the childrens smiles are so amazing to me. This is why I plan to furthur my education to work with children like this for the rest of my life. It's honestly a blessing.
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Florida

Travelled 1.1k miles to learn this valuable lesson

By m leonard

As a student of recreational therapy, I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a study-abroad program. While I never used the r-word directed at a person, I was still using it as a poor adjective choice.View Story As a student of recreational therapy, I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a study-abroad program. While I never used the r-word directed at a person, I was still using it as a poor adjective choice. The 20-something crew I was traveling with quickly corrected me, but old habits are hard to break. It made me realize the power of habit in the brain-mouth connection. I have found a plethora of other adjectives since and continue to share the love and kindness in choosing other words.

About m leonard: retired veteran & graduate of FIU, Recreational Therapy. many special populations need and appreciate the benefit of our help. know that even the smallest efforts to share & connect are priceless
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Florida

My little sister

By LJ Merchant

The fact people throw the word around like it's nothing irritates me. People don't realize that there are actually people out there who have disabilities and try so hard to be normal and by calling them the R-word you put them down and make them feel like nothing.View Story My little sister has mental disabilities. She is 12 and has trouble doing day-to-day tasks that all of us take for granted. Simple tasks can be difficult and a challenge. She was diagnosed at 5 with mental disabilities. She will never be normal like all of us. She will most likely never be able to live alone, which puts stress on my family. We work so hard to help her and when I hear people use the R-word I always stand up and fight for people that are that way because they don't get to choose to be that way, they are born that way. The fact people throw the word around like it's nothing irritates me. People don't realize that there are actually people out there who have disabilities and try so hard to be normal and by calling them the R-word you put them down and make them feel like nothing. They are human beings just like us. And they deserve to be treated like it.

About LJ Merchant: I am 15 years old and I stand up for the mentally disabled.
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Florida

1984

By Cindy Rivera

One day while I was in school in the 1980's, I used the R-word... my friend asked me to please not use that word. Her sister has Down's syndrome. She explained how hurtful that word is.View Story One day while I was in school in the 1980's, I used the R-word... my friend asked me to please not use that word. Her sister has Down's syndrome. She explained how hurtful that word is. I felt so sorry that when I said this word, I unwittingly was hurting someone, my friend, her sister, and their family. It was a hard lesson learned and one I tried to teach to other friends who use the word over the years. Close friends know to not use the R-word around me and know how hurtful it can be. They stop themselves because they know I will not tolerate it.

About Cindy Rivera: 46 year old female, Florida
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