July 11, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Health is a Community Effort in Cabarrus County

By Rachel McQuiston

The Cabarrus County community came together in full force to help Special Olympics North Carolina athletes and their families get more active.View Story The Cabarrus County community came together in full force to help Special Olympics North Carolina athletes and their families get more active. For four weeks, 30 participants in the Special Olympics Cabarrus County Wellness Program took free fitness and cooking classes thanks to community partnerships.“I wanted to find a way to get my athletes more active during the winter when they may not be actively training in a sport,” explained Emily Riley, Special Olympics Cabarrus County’s local coordinator. “But I knew that it couldn’t all fall on me so I looked to the community for assistance and was blown away at the response.”

About Rachel McQuiston: I am the VP of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina
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July 11, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

A True Family Affair: Siblings Become Unified Partners

By Katie McGhee

Leah and Jared pose with their medals

Jared Vinansky took hold of his bowling ball and slowly walked toward the end of the lane. The air was thick with tension, nerves and excitementView Story Jared Vinansky took hold of his bowling ball and slowly walked toward the end of the lane. The air was thick with tension, nerves and excitement, but Jared was focused. His arm swung backward with ball in tow and with a flick of the wrist, the ball began rolling down the lane.One pin down, then four pins, seven pins, and it’s a strike!The crowd cheered loudly for Jared, but he heard his parents the most clearly as he stepped forward to see his Special Olympics Unified Partner beaming at him. He challenged her to get a strike, too. They may be Unified Partners, but they still compete with each other. After all, that’s what brothers and sisters do.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Communications Manager for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

MVCI Makes a Big Impact on the Community

By Tim Leonard

Mountain View Correctional Institution is making a big impact thanks to fundraising for North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.View Story Mountain View Correctional Institution in Avery County may be a small facility, but employees are making a big impact on the community thanks to fundraising for North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.Spurred by new leadership from Department of Public Safety employees Peggy Dale and Brooke Peterson, Mountain View Correctional Institution (MVCI), located in Spruce Pine, has already raised almost $3,500 for Special Olympics athletes this calendar year. And believe it or not, Dale says the Spruce Pine facility is just getting started.“Our goal is 6,000 for the year,” Dale said.Dale believes the MVCI department has been able to raise so much money because the Spruce Pine population provides strong encouragement and are truly connected to Special Olympics.“A lot of people have athletes and children who are involved, which helps spread the word,” Dale commented.

About Tim Leonard: I am the Communications Intern for Special Olympics North Carolina
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July 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Kelly Dixon is North Carolina Athlete of the Month

By Tim Leonard

Bringing home the gold has become the norm for Kelly Dixon in her Special Olympics career.View Story Bringing home the gold has become the norm for Kelly Dixon in her Special Olympics career. The Special Olympics Harnett County athlete has been scaling the podium since her first Summer Games in 2001. In 2015, Dixon even took her talents to the national level when she represented North Carolina in the Special Olympics North America Golf Championship in Hilton Head, SC. Dixon continued with her success, adding another gold medal to her collection in that event, as well.However, Dixon is more than just a superb athlete with a big trophy case. She is also a strong advocate for Special Olympics. Currently, Dixon recruits potential athletes, volunteers and sponsors through public presentations as a Global Messenger for SONC. She shares her story and tells others how competing in Special Olympics has positively impacted her. On top of being a Global Messenger for SONC, Dixon also volunteers for the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

About Tim Leonard: I am the Communications Intern for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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July 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Buncombe County Powerlifter and Coach Form Inseparable Bond

By Tim Leonard

Joe and Matt pose after powerlifting practice

After seven months of training together, Special Olympics Buncombe County powerlifter Matt Paoletti and his coach Joe Brown have formed a remarkable friendship.View Story After seven months of training together, Special Olympics Buncombe County powerlifter Matt Paoletti and his coach Joe Brown have formed a remarkable friendship.Since starting powerlifting in 2011, 28-year-old Paoletti has competed in several local and state-level Special Olympics powerlifting competitions. But, this year with Brown’s help, Paoletti entered Summer Games in the strongest and best shape of his life. He was thrilled with his performance at Summer Games in early June and is as confident as ever, thanks to his training with Brown.“I’m happy and I feel powerful,” Paoletti said.Paoletti met his soon-to-be coach at WNC Barbell, a local gym that offers a weekly powerlifting training class for Special Olympics athletes. Special Olympics Buncombe County Athletes attend the class to practice leading up to Summer Games and other Special Olympics powerlifting events. Brown grew interested in the class and saw an opportunity to do something he had always dreamed of doing.

About Tim Leonard: I am the Communications Intern for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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June 14, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Local TV Anchor Honored at Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies

By Rachel McQuiston

Ken Smith (R) of WRAL_TV accepts the James E. Long Commitment to Excellence award from Keith L. Fishburne, President/CEO Special Olympics North Carolina (L) during the 2017 SONC Summer Games Opening Ceremonies on June 2.

WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Ken Smith received a surprise special award as he emceed opening ceremonies on 2 June.View Story WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Ken Smith has been a dedicated volunteer with Special Olympics North Carolina for years. While he emceed the annual Opening Ceremonies, as is his tradition, Special Olympics North Carolina surprised him with a special award. Smith received the prestigious James E. Long Commitment to Excellence Award on 2 June 2017.“He was completely caught off guard!” said WRAL-TV News Photographer Andrew Cumbee.Although Smith was surprised, the reasoning behind his being honored left no room for doubt of his deserving the honor.“We are so pleased to present Ken with this award,” said Special Olympics North Carolina President and CEO Keith Fishburne. “In some regard, this award goes to an unsung hero (volunteer) who works quietly behind the scenes to help us in our mission of providing sports training and competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”

About Rachel McQuiston: I am the VP of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina
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June 14, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Shemar Kearney is Athlete of the Month in North Carolina

By Tim Leonard

Shemar Kearney

Shemar Kearney of Special Olympics Franklin County is a competitive athlete on the court and a role model off the court.View Story Shemar Kearney of Special Olympics Franklin County is a competitive athlete on the court and a role model off the court.Competing in Special Olympics since he was 10 years old, Kearney was excited to take to the track again by participating in the 200m run and long jump at the 2017 Special Olympics Franklin County Spring Games. He had high hopes for himself before going into the competition, and was excited to do well in both events, but especially long jump.“I like to jump far,” Kearney said. “Long jump is my favorite thing to compete in.”But basketball is a close second. A key member of the Bunn High School JV basketball team, Kearney showed his skills on the court this past winter. However, one of his favorite parts of being on the team is that his teammates showed him love all season long.“It has been an awesome year being on the team,” Kearney said.

About Tim Leonard: I am the Communications Intern for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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May 19, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

The reason I hate the word

By Trinity Laxton

Some boys at my school called the special needs children "retards" that really hurt me.View Story Some boys at my school called the special needs children "retards" that really hurt me. I don't like the word or how they are treated, it really hurts me to know how people label them. It isn't fair to them. I was literally bawling my eyes out when that happened.

About Trinity Laxton: i am cheerleader who volunteers at my school to work with special needs children. I enjoy doing that the most !
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May 19, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Hometown Pride - North Carolina Athlete Wins Gold at Penn Relays

By Katie McGhee

Samantha Munson holding her gold medal.

A Special Olympics North Carolina runner won a gold medal in the 100 meter dash in the Penn Relays, the largest track and field competition in the United States.View Story A Special Olympics North Carolina runner won a gold medal in the 100 meter dash in the Penn Relays, the largest track and field competition in the United States.Samantha Munson is from Franklin County. N.C. She has made her hometown proud every year at the Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games. But little did she know that nine years after her first competition, she would represent not just Franklin County, but the whole state of North Carolina in the Penn Relays.Following the 2016 North Carolina Summer Games, she qualified to compete in the 100-meter dash at the 2017 Penn Relays. She submitted her scores for consideration. Munson was excited to qualify but was over the moon when she found out that she was chosen to compete. She would be the first female athlete from Special Olympics North Carolina to compete in the Penn Relays. The Penn Relays accepts competitors from across the United States. In Munson's race, she competed against other Special Olympics athletes who qualified.And she won.Read more about Samantha Munson and her race.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Communications Manager for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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May 08, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Jamie Hathcock: Special Olympics NC May Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

Jamie Hathcock competing in athletics at SONC's Summer Games

For Jamie Hathcock of Stanly County, Special Olympics has become a large part of his everyday life.View Story For Jamie Hathcock of Stanly County, Special Olympics has become a large part of his everyday life. Since he was eight years old, Hathcock has participated in every sport Special Olympics offers, including his favorite sport of track and field, and was one of the first golfers in Stanly County. Over the last 33 years, Hathcock has put his heart and soul into being a great athlete, teammate and leader. Hathcock took his love for Special Olympics and went the extra mile. When Special Olympics Stanly County held a local fundraiser, Hathcock decided to reach out to his community to help raise money. After visiting business after business, Hathcock raised nearly $1,400. “I shared how much Special Olympics means to me with each person I talked to,” said Hathcock.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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May 02, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Rebekah Tucker: April Athlete of the Month for North Carolina

By Katie McGhee

Rebekah Tucker poses in her seersucker pants

While Rebekah Tucker celebrated her 18th birthday at the beginning of April, she took a moment to reflect on her five years as a Special Olympics Alleghany County athlete.View Story While Rebekah Tucker celebrated her 18th birthday at the beginning of April, she took a moment to reflect on her five years as a Special Olympics Alleghany County athlete. Being homeschooled her whole life, Special Olympics helped Tucker make many new friends that have helped her come out of her shell. Tucker has great memories of playing her favorite sports, basketball bowling and athletics, and taking trips with her team and coaches. But a lasting impact that she didn’t see coming all started with a pair of pants. As Tucker’s mother Linda was shopping at a local store, she spotted a pair of seersucker pants that she thought would be perfect for her daughter. But when Linda brought home the new pair of pants for Tucker, they were both disappointed to find that they did not fit. The seersucker pants were put into a back closet and soon forgotten. But a visit to a Healthy Athletes fitness exam made her and her mother realize that changes needed to made. They decided to get more serious about their eating and exercise habits.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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April 24, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

My First Gold Medal!

By Amanda Fusarini

My coach and me, right after I got my gold medal!!!!

I got 1st place in my division for Bocce during the fall tournament in High Point, North Carolina for Brunswick County this year. It was my first gold, and I was named athlete of the year for Brunswick county!View Story I got 1st place in my division for Bocce during the fall tournament in High Point, North Carolina for Brunswick County this year. It was my first gold, and I was named athlete of the year for Brunswick county! I worked hard, practiced hard, and focused. My coach and dad both helped me so much. I play bocce, volleyball, bowling, basketball, and I go to Camp Shriver every year. I love being an athlete. I am 26 years old. I hope to be on the Global Messenger board some day.

About Amanda Fusarini: My name is Amanda Fusarini I love being an athlete.
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March 31, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Elizabeth Knightly--2017 Special Olympics NC Volunteer of the Year

By Katie McGhee

Elizabeth Knightly accepting the Volunteer of the Year award.

There’s no guarantee as to when passion will find you. For Elizabeth Knightly, it was in high school when she began volunteering with Special Olympics.View Story There’s no guarantee as to when passion will find you. For Elizabeth Knightly, it was in high school when she began volunteering with Special Olympics along with her Junior Civitan club. Now decades later, Knightly considers her involvement with the organization to be a core part of her identity. After moving to North Carolina, Knightly was reintroduced to Special Olympics by a colleague who shared her passion for the organization. Once she saw the joy of the Special Olympics athletes again, it was easy for her to dive right back in to volunteering.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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March 31, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Joshua Holland--2017 Special Olympics NC March Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

For Joshua Holland, Special Olympics opened a door to the sports he wanted to pursue his whole life.View Story For Joshua Holland, Special Olympics opened a door to the sports he wanted to pursue his whole life. What started out as a dream of becoming a swimmer changed into the pursuit of several dreams that the Special Olympics Dare County athlete turned into a reality.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media at Special Olympics North Carolina.
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March 06, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Sycamore Creek

By Pam Hoke

Part of our school commercial

We are celebrating Spread the Word to End the Word for the whole month of March.View Story We are celebrating Spread the Word to End the Word for the whole month of March. Staff purchased STWTETW t shirts and will wear them on Wednesdays for the month of March. Our big event is March 14th in our Courtyard. About 400 4th and 5th graders will take a pledge together and sign the banner. We made school commercial about our event that the whole school has seen a few times. We have 1200+ students.

About Pam Hoke: I teach a self contained classroom for students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder for grades 3-5th grade.
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March 03, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Our Sister Chelsea

By Abigail and Sophia Smith

My girls have spoken to their school and area schools and churches for the second year to get kids and adults aware of spreading the word. They do this on behalf of their sister, Chelsea.View Story My girls have spoken to their school and area schools and churches for the second year to get kids and adults aware of spreading the word. They do this on behalf of their sister, Chelsea.

About Abigail and Sophia Smith: We are the Smith family. Peter, Cindy, Sophia(15) and Abigail and Chelsea (14) Chelsea has agenesis of the Corpus Collosum and has developmental delays. She is the light of our life.
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March 03, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Our Sister Chelsea

By Abigail and Sophia Smith

My girls have spoken to their school and area schools and churches for the second year to get kids and adults aware of spreading the word. They do this on behalf of their sister, Chelsea.View Story My girls have spoken to their school and area schools and churches for the second year to get kids and adults aware of spreading the word. They do this on behalf of their sister, Chelsea.

About Abigail and Sophia Smith: We are the Smith family. Peter, Cindy, Sophia(15) and Abigail and Chelsea (14) Chelsea has agenesis of the Corpus Collosum and has developmental delays. She is the light of our life.
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February 28, 2017 | North America: Mississippi

My future Special Olympics Home

By Will Hobbs

I have been involved in Special Olympics in Mississippi as an athlete since I was in high school and I have truly enjoyed it.View Story I have been involved in Special Olympics in Mississippi as an athlete since I was in high school and I have truly enjoyed it and I still enjoy it to this day. I just won a gold medal in basketball skills in the area games in DeSoto County and now I am getting ready to train to do track and field and make my last trip to Keeslar Air Force base in Biloxi. I love this opportunity to show that I can do anything that I wanna do and Special Olympics has inspired me. I will be moving to North Carolina so I am looking forward to competing in N.C. Special Olympics so get ready for a determined and good athlete.

About Will Hobbs: Hi my name is Will Hobbs I am 37 years old I am a nice handsome smart gentleman to be around. I am single but i would like to meet someone someday. I love to participate in several sports including track and field, basketball softball winter sports to name a few.
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February 28, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

You Never Know

By Mairibethe

I had always been sensitive to the use of the r-word in a negative way, but it really hit home when I was having dinner with a friend one night.View Story I had always been sensitive to the use of the r-word in a negative way, but it really hit home when I was having dinner with a friend one night. When the people at the next table were calling each other retarded left and right my friend calmly excused himself and walked over to their table. He said "Excuse me. I know you don't know me, but my little brother is mentally handicapped and is a hard working contributing member of society. It is offensive to use the word 'retarded' the way you guys are using it, and my brother and I would appreciate it if you would choose your words more carefully." I never knew that about his brother, but then again it's not like when you meet someone they just say "Hi, I'm Joe and my brother is mentally handicapped,"... I'm a middle school teacher now and I make sure my kids know how important it is to choose their words wisely. We never know who might be affected by something that we take for granted. Spread love, compassion, and tolerance to all.

About Mairibethe: I am a sixth grade English Language Arts teacher in Winterville, NC and an advocate for all children.
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February 17, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Living SOfit - Davidson County Athlete Makes Health a Priority

By Katie McGhee

Every Thursday night, you can find a group of Special Olympics Davidson County athletes working together on an important aspect of being an athlete—their health.View Story Every Thursday night, you can find a group of Special Olympics Davidson County athletes working together on an important aspect of being an athlete—their health. Five months ago, Davidson County athlete Brian Goins heard about a new health program, called SOfit, that would help athletes focus on health and wellness. After learning more, he decided he should try to bring the program to his community, believing it would benefit athletes in his local program. “I wanted to help myself and fellow athletes lose weight, become better athletes and learn how to make healthy choices,” explained Goins. SOfit is a health and wellness program that provides athletes with the opportunity to be more active. The program is a Unified experience where athletes work with a coach and Unified Partners, people without an intellectual disability, to not only increase their everyday activity but to learn more about proper nutrition, healthy eating, and active living.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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February 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Daniel Rothe - NC February Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

Daniel Rothe is used to competing with his delegation from Transylvania County. But in 2016, he had a new role: coach.View Story Daniel Rothe is used to attending competitions with his delegation from Transylvania County. But at the 2016 SONC Summer Games, something was different. Instead of competing with his teammates, he had a new role: coach. A knee injury forced Rothe to step away from competition in order to heal in time to play his favorite sport, soccer. An active participant in Polar Plunges and fundraising, Rothe is committed to being involved in his local program in any way possible. Now, however, he realized that he wanted to be involved with Special Olympics in a new way. At just 19 years old, Rothe stepped up to help lead his fellow athletes as a coach for athletics. “He has always shown great leadership with the other athletes, so he decided to try coaching,” said Rothe’s mother, Judy.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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February 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Marchello Smith - NC Athlete of the Year

By Rachel McQuiston

Marchello Smith has come a long way. When Smith first found Special Olympics at the age of 13, he was an admittedly “shrimpy” kid.View Story Marchello Smith has come a long way. When Smith first found Special Olympics at the age of 13, he was an admittedly “shrimpy” kid whose shyness and uncertainty had kept him off the field of play his entire life. But as he bravely stepped up to the starting line for the 100 m race, he had one thing in mind. “I don’t like to lose!” laughs Smith. “I definitely don’t like to lose. There were a lot of other much bigger kids lined up with me and I didn’t know if I could beat them. But I sure was going to give it my best try.” When the starter’s pistol fired, Smith took off like a shot and never looked back, winning the race and catching the eye of Special Olympics Wake County coaches. He quickly went on to compete in basketball, softball and soccer. “I loved Special Olympics right away. I was teased a lot as a kid and really loved the acceptance and support my teammates and coaches offered. They kept me out of trouble and became part of my family.”

About Rachel McQuiston: I am the Vice President of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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February 10, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Billie Fitzsimons – NC Coach of the Year

By Katie McGhee

Special Olympics New Hanover County coach Year Billie Fitzsimons has wanted to share her love of tennis with as many people as possible.View Story Feeling the vibration of the racket as it connects with the ball and then watching it soar across the net is enough to make any tennis player fall in love with the sport. For as long as she can remember, Special Olympics New Hanover County coach Year Billie Fitzsimons has wanted to share that feeling with as many people as possible. That dedication led to her being named the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Coach of the Year. From coaching professionally to giving private lessons, Fitzsimons has loved teaching others how to play the game that has always given her so much joy. After retiring to Wilmington, North Carolina, Fitzsimons wanted to continue her work with tennis and also get involved with volunteering in her new community. “Special Olympics has always had a place in my heart and so has tennis,” said Fitzsimons. “Becoming a coach was the perfect opportunity for me to combine my love for the two.”

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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January 25, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

James Branton: North Carolina Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

For James Branton of Gaston County, sports aren’t just about winning—they are about dedication.View Story For James Branton of Gaston County, sports aren’t just about winning—they are about dedication. At just eight years old, Branton began participating in Special Olympics. He first tried swimming and fell in love with the sport. He soon started swimming at the state-level and enjoyed the atmosphere that came with sports. Since then, Branton has branched out and now participates in basketball, softball, skiing and soccer. “He is willing to try anything!” explained Kathie Anthony, Branton’s legal guardian. With every sport, he shows enthusiasm for learning, attends every practice, builds bonds with his teammates and never complains.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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December 30, 2016 | SOI General: Headquarters

22 Special Olympics Programs Activate Fitness Programming Models

By Monica Forquer

Special Olympics Nigeria was one of 22 Special Olympics Programs to activate a fitness implementation grant in 2016.

In 2016, Special Olympics created new resources and provided support for Programs expanding their fitness offerings to Special Olympics athletes interested in pursuing year-round, lifelong fitness.View Story Physical fitness is an important part of the mission of Special Olympics as it is necessary for optimal health and athletic performance. In 2016, Special Olympics created new resources and provided support for Programs expanding their fitness offerings to Special Olympics athletes interested in pursuing year-round, lifelong fitness. Twenty-two Special Olympics Programs were selected for a Fitness Implementation grants funded by Finish Line. Through this grant, more than 1,500 athletes, partners, coaches and family members got to experience the importance of a healthy lifestyle through adequate physical activity, nutrition and hydration as Programs replicated one of three field-developed, SOI-endorsed fitness program models. The grant cycle ended on 15 December, but for many of the grantees, this year was just the beginning with most Programs planning to continue fitness opportunities in the future.

About Monica Forquer: I am the Manager of Fitness for Special Olympics.
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December 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Ronnie Meadows: December Athlete of the Month for North Carolina

By Katie McGhee

For 35 years, Special Olympics Caswell Development Center athlete Ronnie Meadows has had one catchphrase: “I’m the man!”View Story For 35 years, Special Olympics Caswell Development Center athlete Ronnie Meadows has had one catchphrase: “I’m the man!” Since he began competing in Special Olympics, Meadows has been counted on by many as a team captain, friend and good sport. A quiet, but determined, athlete, Meadows shows that a positive attitude and confidence can help him overcome challenges. “He doesn’t want to be in the limelight, but he always comes through when needed,” explains local program coordinator Dalen Herring. “He is truly the glue that holds his teams together.”

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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December 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Special Olympics Global Unified Youth Exchange offers Life-Changing Experiences

By Rachel McQuiston

From the moment they landed in Raleigh, 20 Chinese students and educators experienced the true meaning of “Southern hospitality”.View Story From the moment they landed in Raleigh, 20 Chinese students and educators experienced the true meaning of “Southern hospitality”. They’d traveled to North Carolina for the 2016 Special Olympics Global Unified Youth Exchange, a week-long program that united students from two diverse cultures around a shared commitment to inclusive collaboration, authentic engagement and furthering awareness of Special Olympics in their schools and communities. “Special Olympics North Carolina was thrilled to welcome our new friends from China to the Tar Heel state,” said Keith L. Fishburne, Special Olympics NC President/CEO. “The entire week was focused on bringing them together with North Carolina students who exemplify the power of youth leadership within our movement so the two groups could learn from each other.”

About Rachel McQuiston: I'm the VP of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina
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December 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Athletes Across the State Came Together This Sports Season

By Katie McGhee

This fall, as leaves changed colors and fell to the ground, athletes across the state were practicing and competing in several sports.View Story This fall, as leaves changed colors and fell to the ground, athletes across the state were practicing and competing in several sports. Local programs organized sports leagues and competitions for not only their own athletes, but for athletes from neighboring counties, as well. In October, Special Olympics Buncombe County invited neighboring programs to compete in their second annual Bocce Bonanza. Athletes from Cleveland, Mitchell, Watauga and Henderson counties took them up on the offer. Throughout the competition, athletes enjoyed meeting those from other counties and making new friends. By the end of the event, it was clear that the spirit of camaraderie was in the air. “I think it is safe to say athletes from all counties made new friends that day,” says local program co-coordinator Karla Funari.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media at Special Olympics North Carolina.
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December 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

My Toddler Experience

By Ashlyn Willis

People used to, and still do from time-to-time, make fun of me and call me "that word," because I couldn't make a simple decision like what I want to eat, etc.View Story When I was a toddler, I was chasing my sister in a game of tag in my Mammy's kitchen. When I turned into the living room, I slipped and fell on a piece of metal that came out and up from the couch. It was for an extension of the couch to be added to make it longer. When it happened, it messed up my Pre-Frontal Cortex. I have a hard time making decisions, I have a hard time with emotions and anxiety, and I have a hard time keep memories as long-term memories. People used to, and still do from time-to-time, make fun of me and call me "that word," because I couldn't make a simple decision like what I want to eat, etc. I couldn't control my emotions, I had a HUGE fear of people and social outings.. etc. I still do, but those experiences helped me to learn that noone deserves that. Noone deserves to be called such vile names. There are people SOO much more worse off than I am, and I know they must go through worse. That's why I pledge to not use not only that word, but to NEVER judge anyone

About Ashlyn Willis: I guess you've already learned about me in my story, but I'm 19 from NC in the US. I firmly believe that you do NOT judge anyone for anything cause you can never know what they're going through. Truly
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November 28, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Remembering Billy Quick, Whose Name Said it All

By Christy Weir

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, left, and Special Olympics North Carolina athlete Billy Quick.

Billy Quick captured his spirit in one sentence: “You might be able to out read me, but I can out run you!”View Story Billy Quick of High Point, North Carolina was a true ambassador of our movement. His dazzling physical skills were matched only by his contagious smile and his common-sense approach to leadership. He was a Special Olympics athlete who celebrated everyone’s abilities. He captured it in one quip: “You might be able to out-read me, but I can out-run you!” Quick passed away over the Thanksgiving weekend at the age of 43. “He was a hero — a man whose smile and wit and kindness and strength could move hearts like no other," said Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver. Quick was a leader throughout our movement. He served on the boards of directors for Special Olympics North Carolina and the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Quick took part in the first Global Athlete Congress in 2000. He traveled the world speaking to schools, civic groups, and business leaders about how Special Olympics changed his life. “Being in Special Olympics has taught me how to work on my goals,” Quick would tell his audiences. “It taught me how to set goals and reach them.” He fulfilled a dream by running the 1997 New York Marathon. He helped make history as part of the first U.S. team to run in the Havana, Cuba, marathon in 2000. He once biked across the U.S. in the Face of America Ride. “For more than three decades Billy has had such a positive impact not just as an athlete, but as a prominent leader in the Special Olympics movement,” said Keith L. Fishburne, president of Special Olympics North Carolina. “This is heartbreaking,” Shriver said. "I can’t believe we have lost him.”

About Christy Weir: I am the director of media and public relations for Special Olympics.
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November 10, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Special Olympics screenings help students become participants

By Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

​This year, Butler High student Jeffrey Sanchez will be participating in the Special Olympics North Carolina for the first time.View Story ​This year, Butler High student Jeffrey Sanchez will be participating in the Special Olympics North Carolina for the first time — thanks to a free MedFest screening event recently offered by the organization in partnership with Carolinas HealthCare Systems. MedFest is a Special Olympics initiative combining health and outreach, helping athletes who have difficulty getting to a doctor to obtain their valid and current medical forms to participate.

About Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is located in the Charlotte, North Carolina region and provides academic instruction, rigor and support each school day to more than 146,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 170​ schools throughout the cities and towns of Mecklenburg County.
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November 03, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Yasmin Neal—Athlete of the Month in North Carolina

By Katie McGhee

At just 19 years old, Yasmin Neal of Forsyth County is already a seasoned Special Olympics athlete.View Story At just 19 years old, Yasmin Neal of Forsyth County is already a seasoned Special Olympics athlete. Starting in the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program when she was 2 years old, Neal quickly developed a love for sports Young Athletes™ is an inclusive early childhood sports and educational play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities, aged 2 to 7 years old. When she turned eight, Neal began to compete as a Special Olympics North Carolina athlete. Since then, Neal has learned much about herself and what being a Special Olympics athlete means to her. “These past 17 years have taught her how to work with others and be a team player,” said Neal’s mother, Melissa. Often described as committed to helping others, Neal goes out of her way to assist her fellow athletes. During practice, Neal can be found showing her teammates correct techniques, and motivating others to be strong and do their best.

About Katie McGhee: I am the Manager of Communications and Social Media at Special Olympics North Carolina.
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October 26, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Getting Back on the Horse--Competing Again After Accident

By Katie McGhee

Linda Garwood and Stephanie Wilkerson

Stephanie Wilkerson of Davidson County truly knows what it means to get back on the horse after a setback.View Story Stephanie Wilkerson of Davidson County truly knows what it means to get back on the horse after a setback. Though she’s only been competing in equestrian with Special Olympics for two years, Wilkerson is no stranger to the sport. For about nine years, Wilkerson took private lessons until one day her horse was spooked during a practice. The next thing Wilkerson knew she was on the ground with a compound fracture in her right arm. After five surgeries, Wilkerson was nervous about riding again, though she was still passionate about horses. While she healed, Special Olympics Davidson County started offering equestrian as a Special Olympics sport. Linda Garwood and her daughter, Lynn, began coaching equestrian and grew the program each year. When Wilkerson heard about the Special Olympics program, she visited the Garwood farm to learn more about the program.

About Katie McGhee: Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina
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October 05, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Damian Chwalek—2016 Special Olympics NC Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

After ten years in Special Olympics, Mecklenburg County athlete Damian Chwalek has enjoyed giving back to his community in as many ways as he can.View Story After ten years in Special Olympics, Mecklenburg County athlete Damian Chwalek has enjoyed giving back to his community in as many ways as he can. “Damian embodies all the qualities of a Special Olympics athlete,” says local program coordinator Greg Morrill. “He is an accomplished athlete and leader in the Special Olympics movement in Mecklenburg County.”

About Katie McGhee: Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina
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September 28, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Athletes get on board with trying something new

By Katie McGhee

Special Olympics North Carolina athletes are getting on board the stand-up paddle boarding trend.View Story Stand-up paddle boarding has taken the nation by storm in recent years. Not only does it offer fitness benefits, such as improved core strength and balance, it also is relaxing and peaceful. And now Special Olympics North Carolina athletes are getting on board the new trend. Charyl Clark, Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro local coordinator helped to spearhead the introduction of standup paddle boarding as a locally popular sport. At the 2016 SONC Leadership Conference, Clark and a few of her fellow local coordinators began talking in earnest about paddle boarding for Special Olympics athletes. While everyone agreed that it would be a great opportunity for the athletes, no one was really sure how to make it happen. Read more at the link below.

About Katie McGhee: Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina.
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September 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Thanks, Karisa Eliason!

By Angela Ciccolo

On my way home after Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Phoenix, AZ, I had the opportunity to hear about a great volunteer.View Story On my way home to Washington, D.C. from the Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Phoenix, AZ, I had the opportunity to sit next to Jon Eliason on the Chicago to D.C. leg of the trip. Jon saw the Special Olympics logo on my computer and told me about his wife Karisa who has volunteered for Special Olympics since she was in the 6th grade! Karisa is all about sports-- especially Special Olympics sports in Lane County, North Carolina. I just want to thank Karisa and the other volunteers who work so hard to make every Special Olympics practice and competition fun, safe and memorable.  Thanks Karisa. I'm grateful that you're part of the Special Olympics movement.

About Angela Ciccolo: I am Special Olympics' chief legal officer.
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September 23, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Row-raiser benefits Special Olympics Catawba County

By Katie McGhee

What do CrossFit and Special Olympics have in common? Both believe in community and inclusivity.View Story What do CrossFit and Special Olympics have in common? Besides their focus on athletic training and competition, both CrossFit and Special Olympics North Carolina believe in community and inclusivity. Those shared traits were seen when CrossFit Catawba Valley and Special Olympics Catawba County came together for an event on August 28. Read more

About Katie McGhee: Manager of communications and social media for Special Olympics North Carolina
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September 09, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Surry County Wins Bronze at Regional Softball Tournament

By Katie McGhee

After finding out that they would be going to the Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational, the Surry County Yellow Jackets knew they had a lot of work ahead of them.View Story After finding out that they would be going to the Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational, the Surry County Yellow Jackets knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. The team, exceptionally excited about the opportunity, began practicing once a week to prepare for the stiff competition. Going into the competition, which took place on Aug 18-21 in Roanoke, Virginia, the Yellow Jackets were not only excited to play against teams from across the United States and Canada, but to meet so many new people throughout the tournament. The weekend kicked off with division games and the Opening Ceremony, which included a parade where two Surry County athletes represented North Carolina. Additionally, two-time Olympic Softball player and professor at Liberty University Dr. Dot Robinson made a guest appearance and signed autographs.

About Katie McGhee: Manager of Communications and Social Media for Special Olympics North Carolina
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September 06, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Philip Williamson is the September Athlete of the Month

By Katie McGhee

After being a part of Special Olympics for 23 years, Phillip Williamson of Johnston County knows that one of the best parts of competing is the experience itself.View Story After being a part of Special Olympics for 23 years, Phillip Williamson of Johnston County knows that one of the best parts of competing is the experience itself. Williamson currently plays basketball, soccer, softball and golf, and has had numerous experiences that have been life-changing.  When the 1999 Special Olympics World Games took place in Raleigh, Williamson got to compete in a basketball game at the Dean Smith Center at UNC –Chapel Hill. As a Tar Heel fan, that experience alone became one of his favorite memories. However, what made it even more special to Williamson, was that it also happened to be his 14th birthday!  Despite this exciting memory with basketball, his favorite sport to play is golf.  “I like playing golf because I get to play with my dad, even if I’m not the best golfer,” explains Williamson.  Read more at the link below.

About Katie McGhee: I am the SONC Manager of Communications and Social Media.
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August 02, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Keshaun Tillman- 2016 Special Olympics NC August Athlete of the Month

By Madeline Safrit

Whenever Keshaun Tillman competes in athletics, bocce, basketball and cycling, he recognizes the significance of encouraging his peers.View Story When it comes to sports and competition, the virtues of sportsmanship are just as important as the outcome of the game itself. Whenever Keshaun Tillman competes in athletics, bocce, basketball and cycling, he recognizes the significance of encouraging his peers.After adjusting to his family’s move from Georgia five years ago, he quickly found his place in Special Olympics Wilkes County.“When he first arrived, he was a little shy. Special Olympics NC has really opened up his social skills and made him more comfortable,” said Crystal Tillman, Tillman’s mother.As he’s gained confidence, Tillman has turned his attention to helping his peers do the same. “He considers himself the helper and he likes to explain how things are done. If an athlete is having a hard time running, he’ll run beside him,” said Crystal Tillman.

About Madeline Safrit: Special Olympics North Carolina Communications Intern
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July 27, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Special Olympics gets new gear, thanks to UNCA's Thomas

By Bob Berghaus

The basketball teams for Special Olympics of Buncombe County can thank UNC Asheville rising junior forward Ahmad Thomas for new uniforms.View Story The basketball teams for Special Olympics of Buncombe County can thank UNC Asheville rising junior forward Ahmad Thomas for new uniforms that will be coming soon. Kevin O’Connor, a retired businessman who serves on the board for The Cliffs at Walnut Cove Members Association, mentors Thomas in UNC Asheville’s Leaders for Leaders program. “I was talking with Ahmad and asking him about his career goals and he told me he wanted to be a special education teacher,” O’Connor said Monday before a press conference where Special Olympics was presented with a check from Walnut Cove, which is covering the cost of the uniforms.

About Bob Berghaus: Special Olympics North Carolina Communications Intern
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July 11, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Daniel Hunsucker – 2016 Special Olympics NC July Athlete of the Month

By Madeline Safrit

Over the years, Daniel Hunsucker has become an avid participant on the Guilford/Greensboro Aquatics team, acting as both an athlete and mentor for younger athletes on the teamView Story For most people, swimming means a day at the beach or an afternoon spent lounging by the pool. For Daniel Hunsucker, a Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro athlete, swimming has been an amazing opportunity to help coach, befriend other athletes, and share his talent with the community. Over the years, Hunsucker has become an avid participant on the Guilford/Greensboro Aquatics team, acting as both an athlete and mentor for younger athletes on the team. From the beginning, Hunsucker’s friends and family noticed his innate leadership characteristics. “He is very good with people. He enjoys the interaction and he thrives on it. He is very good with younger athletes,” said Tina Hunsucker, his mother. Outside of the pool, Hunsucker has become a leader in his community as a participant in with InFocus, an international organization that works with individuals with intellectual disabilities to help them photograph important moments in their lives.

About Madeline Safrit: Special Olympics North Carolina Communications Intern
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July 11, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

New Partnership Promotes Sun Safety at Summer Games

By Madeline Safrit

This year, Special Olympics North Carolina partnered with with three organizations to provide portable sunscreen dispensers during the 2016 Summer Games.View Story For many people, summer means trips to the beach, outdoor sporting events and vacation. However, many people often forget that summer also means wearing more sunscreen. This year, Special Olympics North Carolina partnered with Aesthetic Solutions, the American Society of Dermatological Surgery (ASDS) and La Roche-Posay to provide portable sunscreen dispensers during the 2016 SONC Summer Games. 15 sun safety stations were placed at venues for softball, softball skills, athletics, cycling and NC State’s Fountain Dining Hall throughout the course of the weekend Dr. Christie Regula of ASDS emphasized that this initiative is focused on reminding people of the importance of sunscreen and protecting their skin, especially during long outdoor sporting events, such as Athletics competitions. “At events like this, people apply sunscreen before they come and forget to reapply when they should be reapplying every two hours,” said Regula.

About Madeline Safrit: Special Olympics North Carolina Communications Intern
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July 11, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Athletes Focus on Health During Summer Games Screenings

By Madeline Safrit

When it comes to sports, good health and wellness are fundamentals for all athletes, whether they are competing on the track, in the pool or on a bike.View Story When it comes to sports, good health and wellness are fundamentals for all athletes, whether they are competing on the track, in the pool or on a bike. This year at the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games, seven Healthy Athletes disciplines came together to offer free health screenings to all competing athletes. As part of Special Olympics NC’s 2016-2020 strategic plan, these screenings will address research that has shown that people with intellectual disabilities are consistently left out of specific health systems. Athletes, like Kristine Hughes, were given a Healthy Athletes passport in order to document their trips to FunFitness, Health Promotions, Healthy Hearing, MedFest, Special Smiles, Strong Minds, Strong Bodies and for the first time ever at Summer Games, Opening Eyes. Hughes began her journey at Opening Eyes. After an internal and external exam of her eyes, she became eligible for new glasses, glasses that were made for her on the spot.

About Madeline Safrit: Special Olympics North Carolina Communications Intern
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May 31, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Athlete of the year

By By Amanda Fusarini

Me with my awards

I was and am so honored to have won athlete of the year award at Special Olympics Brunswick County spring games!View Story I was and am so honored to have won athlete of the year award at Special Olympics Brunswick County spring games! I got a nice plaque I can hang up on my wall and a nice card with a $50.00 gift card to Walmart I can spend anyway I want. I didn't know it was happening. I was so shocked and surprised. My mom Patti Frankel Fusarini my dad Tom Fusarini and my sister Angela Fusarini had flowers for me there too, and when I got home my grandpa and grandma Melodie Fyke-Van Wye sent flowers. I also got 4th place ribbon in 50 meter dash 3rd place ribbon in 100 meter walk and 2nd place in in softball throw I had a great day!!! I started special Olympics when I moved here in 2014. My first sport was volleyball then bocce then bowling and I do spring games and fall games I also participate in Camp Shriver, a Special Olympics camp. I started in March 2014 and hope to continue. I hope I win gold. I hope to one day go to national games and one day even world games.

About By Amanda Fusarini: I am an athlete 25 years old gonna be 26 in June. I like to make friends. I like volleyball basketball bocce bowling softball gymnastics swimming spring games camp all kinds of things. I like to write and I like to read.
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May 09, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Fit & Flattering - Special Olympics North Carolina Athletes is Living Healthier

By Megan O'Donnell

The Healthy Athletes Challenge helped Special Olympics NC athlete Karen Hendrix drop 50lbs in nine months and feel good about herself.

Special Olympics NC athlete Karen Hendrix has dropped more than 50 lbs. in the past nine months, is no longer a diabetic and was the belle of the ball.View Story Special Olympics NC athlete Karen Hendrix has dropped more than 50 lbs. in the past nine months, is no longer a diabetic and was the belle of the ball this year at the Watauga County Joy Prom! She attributes her healthier lifestyle with the changes she made during the NC GlaxoSmithKline funded Healthy Athletes Challenge!

About Megan O'Donnell: Karen has such an inspiring story! She has a wonderful time at the Joy Prom this year and is continuing to work out, practice and feel great!
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May 05, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

"Unstoppable" Dustin Eudy, Athlete of the Month in North Carolina

By By Megan O'Donnell

Dustin Eudy of Avery County North Carolina is the Special Olympics NC Athlete of the Month for May 2016.

If Special Olympics Avery County athlete Dustin Eudy was asked which super hero characterized him the most, without question the answer would have to be “Flash”!View Story If Special Olympics Avery County athlete Dustin Eudy was asked which super hero characterized him the most, without question the answer would have to be “Flash”! The 18 year-old has been a blur on the track since he was 8 years old. “He runs like the wind, “said Barb Holdcroft, Eudy’s aquatics coach. “No one can beat him, he’s just unstoppable. He is so talented and I expected to the see the same thing when we started the swim team.” To Holdcroft’s surprise, Eudy was not dominant or fast in the water but he was eager to learn. “Dustin is a very hard worker and is always trying to learn new things whether it’s in school or in Special Olympics,” said Holdcroft. “He was so enthusiastic and eager. He just needed some work on his stroke techniques.” Eudy is in terrific shape. In addition to his Special Olympics sports, he also is a member of the Avery High School football and wrestling teams. Despite a serious hearing impairment, Eudy loves to be involved and active!

About By Megan O'Donnell: Special Olympics NC VP of Communications
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May 05, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Moving to the Front of the Class for Healthy Athletes Challenge

By By Megan O'Donnell

Zack Kupner of Alleghany County is getting fit thanks to the Healthy Athletes Challenge.

When Zack Kupner joins his class instructor at the front of his fitness class at the Alleghany Wellness Center everyone smiles!View Story When Zack Kupner joins his class instructor at the front of his fitness class at the Alleghany Wellness Center everyone smiles! Kupner literally came from the back of the room where he wouldn’t participate at all when the Healthy Athletes Challenge first began and now he’s at the front of the class. The exercise is paying off. “He really likes to exercise now,” said his mom. “He’s always had some foot problems and I’ve noticed his strength and endurance are much improved. We walked all around Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls one day last weekend and he handled it all just fine! I was so surprised.”

About By Megan O'Donnell: Several western North Carolina counties of which Alleghany County is one are participating in the Healthy Athletes Challenge, a fitness and nutrition based program, funded by the NC GlaxoSmithKline Ribbon of Hope grant to Special Olympics NC.
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May 02, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Helping in the community

By Bradley Rice

The Greensboro Police Department donated to Special Olympics North Carolina last Thursday, April 25th. I came to help out with the officers.View Story The Greensboro Police Department donated to Special Olympics North Carolina last Thursday, April 25th. I came to help out with the officers. It means a lot to me as an athlete and I am very proud to be part of the organization. It does help a lot of the athletes in the state of North Carolina.

About Bradley Rice: I like being around people to have friends and also coaches but starting in July of this it will be my 10th year since the day I moved to Greensboro it mean a lot to me but right now getting in shape and losing weight for summer games It was amazing for me I had lost 200 pound when I was in UNCG Beyond Academics but I feel great losing a lot weight since then and I did stop ordering pizza's I know it make me gaining more weight because I was worried my heart but I had a major surgery on my chest since when I was 3 years old
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April 29, 2016 | North America: North Carolina

Hoop Dreams for Special Olympics NC Athletes and Unified Partners

By Megan O'Donnell

NC State Unified Team with UNC Wilmington Unified Team before the Unified League Championship Games in April in Raleigh.

The team chemistry was mixing perfectly. The baskets were falling and now after an undefeated regular season, the champion of the four-team NC State Special Olympics NC Unified Basketball league was poised to take on the winner of the UNC Wilmington Unified Basketball league.View Story The team chemistry was mixing perfectly. The baskets were falling and now after an undefeated regular season, the champion of the four-team NC State Special Olympics NC Unified Basketball league was poised to take on the winner of the UNC Wilmington Unified Basketball league for the top honor in the burgeoning Unified Basketball league in North Carolina! NC State and Wilmington played and won two games vs Wilmington. The games weren’t too close with but the final score and winning bragging rights for 2016 weren’t what made this day a success for either team. “The key is having fun and getting everybody together. It’s not all about winning, it’s about having fun together,” said Russell Howell, a Special Olympics Wake County athlete and member of the NC State Unified team.

About Megan O'Donnell: VP of Communications
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