There is a lot to say about the magical and historical 2022 USA Games! I am excited to give you the inside look at my week in Orlando, FL!
Here are the highlights that got me thinking and reflecting!
- I attended the Opening Ceremony and that was really enriching. I cheered so much! I danced around and helped to carry down juice for the Colorado athletes. I watched my SSIGM colleague, Renee Manfredi, announce Sara Bareilles, who performed at the Opening Ceremony, and watched Renee dance with Disney characters. That was fun!
- Before Opening Ceremony, I chatted with Abby Cox, the First Lady of Utah. I was so fortunate that the connection was well made. I also visited with Mackenzie, our Colorado Board Chair, and Megan, our CEO.
- I did see the Cirque du Soleil…Drawn to Life and that show really wowed me. My mouth was wide open with no sound coming out of me, and that rarely happens. I gripped my seat with all my strength because I loved every single act. After, I asked Stephanie if we could see this performance again in Colorado and Stephanie said we could go together to the next Cirque du Soleil that comes to Colorado.
- I loved having dinner with Tim Shriver and other VIPs. Tim Shriver made that dinner extraordinary through his interactions. I met Boniface Kimeu, an athlete from Kenya, who is a member of the Global Athlete Leadership Council. Boniface has an interesting story that I want to highlight in my fellowship job. I was honored that I met him and enjoyed his personality.
- We got the chance to meet with the Global Athlete Leadership Council and I visited with another member, Kiera Byland, who is a six-time gold medalist. I challenged Kiera to a cycling and ski race but first, she needs to learn how to ski! This was a delightful conversation.
- I liked speaking at the Healthy Athletes ribbon cutting with Nyasha. The audience enjoyed the moment.
- It was my honor to introduce Ann Costello, from the Golisano Foundation, at the Healthy Athletes ribbon-cutting ceremony.
- We received a Superpower presentation that I found to be fun and interactive. I mentioned two of my superpowers that I used during the USA Games here in Orlando; public speaking and giving the best hugs. One of the Lions Club executive directors wanted to evaluate my hugs. I gave him a powerful hug. It made his day. Stephanie said the main superpower that I have is flattery. There was a dance party, and the music moved my dancing feet that led right into breakdancing.
- I enjoyed the Healthy Athletes tour that I did with Renee Manfredi. It was a pleasure to show around one of our wonderfully supportive sponsors, Coca-Cola.
- I saw athletes Steven and Jimmy from Colorado compete in bocce and both won!
- I met up with Jackie Jodl, Senior Vice President of Global Youth and Education, and her niece Ellie. We all enjoyed watching the ESPN Executive Unified Challenge together while snacking on amazing food. The event was well attended and packed full of action. It was incredible to share experiences with my new friends.
- I experienced the Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom and that ride was a thrill. I was linked to my own incredible Avatar.
- I conquered Mount Everest at Animal Kingdom. That was an extraordinary ride. I had my arms high in the air. That gave me the time of my life. I got a T-shirt that said, “I conquered Mount Everest.”
- Daniel and I went on a discovery train with our mentors and we were up close and personal with African animals. We were enthusiastic about petting these creatures and it was something I will always remember. We enjoyed this special event.
- That evening took me by surprise because it altered my life and the trip. I tested positive for COVID. That meant I needed to stay away from other people and this was the greatest challenge that I faced yet on this trip. That meant that I would miss my job responsibilities. I didn’t like that truth.
- The greatest miracle is that Emily Klinger, Brandon, and Stephanie surprised me 11000% by having my mother come to Orlando. My mother came to give me support and boost my spirit during this disappointment. Fortunately, I had a mild case of COVID.
- During my quarantine, I did a video for the other athletes that had COVID and told them that they are not alone. I did this video in my hotel room with my mother filming. I did another video for the CDC explaining how I was dealing with COVID.
- I did my own Closing Ceremony with my mother in Orlando. We ended up playing card golf with Irish cards and that went well. We played for pennies, then we tossed the pennies in the courtyard fountain and my golden Mickey ears fell into the fountain! I went right into the fountain to grab my golden sparkly Mickey ears. Then we had dessert before dinner and my mother and I ended up watching Violetta on Disney plus, painting fingernails and we both stayed up until midnight.
The greatest lesson that I had to embrace is resting and staying in one spot the whole time through those five days. In this lesson, I observed the simple things around me and realized that Orlando was a dream come true. It didn't matter that I was sick, because I took a step back and was grateful for what did happen. I was able to really listen to parents, nurses, and doctors knowing they wanted the best for my health. I adapted and coped with this virus.
I thank everyone for encouraging me like Stephanie and my mom for bringing meals, conversation, and joy, Megan for bringing thoughtful, kind gifts, Emily and Brandon for checking in on me, Annette and Dr. Bazzano for their visits and medical advice, and my SSIGMs for brightening my attitude. We truly did Shine As One.
Make sure to listen to the podcast that Special Olympics Colorado did for the USA Games!