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Special Olympics Leaving Viewers “Speechless” with New Public Service Announcement

Susie Doyens remained practically mute for most of her childhood due to social pressure and anxiety. See how she literally shattered those fears with the confidence gained through Special Olympics.

Viewers Left Speechless

Susie shatters more than stereotypes:

Special Olympics is leaving viewers “Speechless” with its powerful new television public service announcement (PSA) that has begun airing throughout the United States. The spot focuses on Special Olympics athlete Susie Doyens. Born with Down syndrome, Doyens remained practically mute for most of her childhood due to social pressure and anxiety. In “Speechless,” she literally shatters those fears and attributes her transformation to the confidence gained through Special Olympics.

At 34 years old, Doyens is an accomplished Special Olympics athlete who has competed in 10 sports during her 26 years in Special Olympics, medalling at state and national competitions. But golf is her passion. In fact, her family chose to relocate from Illinois to Rotonda West, Florida in 2011 primarily for the community’s five golf courses.

“I used to never really talk, ever."

For most of her childhood, Doyens communicated almost exclusively with her mother and through written notes. Then in 2001, Doyens shocked everyone when she asked to participate in a Special Olympics Global Messenger training – a program that empowers Special Olympics athletes to share their stories through public speaking and awareness building opportunities. 

It was a life-changing decision: “I used to never really talk, ever. I was scared and shy…I was afraid that I would say something wrong, and everyone would laugh at me,” said Doyens, “I’ve learned a whole lot more than just golf. Special Olympics helped me find my voice.”

Doyens is just one of four million Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities who show the world every day how Special Olympics has the transformative power to reveal the champion in all of us. The organization impacts not just the athletes, but also their families, says Susie’s mom, Lynda Doyens: “Special Olympics is our purpose in life. When I look at her now, I’m the one who’s speechless.”

Susie's Not Alone

“People with intellectual disabilities, the largest disability population on earth, are all too often conditioned to believe that their opinions are not important, that others are better suited to speak for them, or worse, they believe they don’t have the right to be heard. This misunderstanding often leads to isolation and inactivity, and can even lead to bullying,” said Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics.

“We believe this PSA confronts these challenges head-on. Our goal is for viewers to see the spot, be inspired, and choose to support Special Olympics athletes like Susie.”

The Team Behind Speechless

See the story behind Speechless:

Doyens’ tale of transformation was first depicted in a short video called “Words,” produced in 2010 by director Martin Rodahl, owner of production company 71 Degrees North. Rodahl who had worked with Special Olympics in Illinois for several years, saw the potential for Doyens’ story to inspire even more people and immediately seized the opportunity to direct, produce and edit the “Speechless” PSA: “It’s an honor to work with Special Olympics and the individuals that this wonderful organization touches, whether it’s an athlete, volunteer or staff member. I have a sister with special needs so the subject is very close to home.”

According to Barbara DiGuido, director of communications for Special Olympics Illinois, “In a short PSA, Martin was able to capture the essence of Susie’s powerful story in a dramatic and compelling way that leaves a lasting impression about the power Special Olympics has to change lives.”

Tom, Dick & Harry Creative of Chicago, IL, provided support for the concept, spearheaded by creative director Amy Markley and art director Taylor LeCroy. The PSA relied heavily on its postproduction team, including visual effects by Chaos Studios, color by Optimus, sound design and mix by NoiseFloor, and music composition by Audiocastle.