In addition to being a Special Olympics athlete, Maryann Gonzales is a Special Olympics Florida staff member, coach, officiant, and trainer. Maryann has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 47 years and was the first athlete to be inducted to the Special Olympics Florida Hall of Fame. She has participated in track and field, volleyball, basketball, stand up paddle boarding, softball, golf, bowling, bocce, and pickle ball throughout her years with Special Olympics Florida. Maryann has been on the Special Olympics Florida board in the past and currently serves on the board for the Special Olympics 2022 USA Games. Last year, she graduated with honors from Lake Sumter State College in computer science.
Maryann became a Health Messenger because she wanted to be healthier and teach other athletes and people how to make their lives healthier. She has had the opportunity to speak with groups of physicians and shares with them the following message, “Don’t always look at the disability, look at them as a person and treat them that way. Don’t treat them any different. Be respectful to them as a person.”
As a Health Messenger, Maryann is focused on aging athletes. She was an integral part of bringing pickleball to Special Olympics Florida and helped host the first Pickleball Exhibition for the state in 2019. Maryann also assists in training new Health Messengers in Florida and develops resources for athletes 40 years and older.
When not competing in, volunteering with, or working for Special Olympics, Maryann enjoys hanging out with her four housemates. They like to go on walks, watch TV, and are always looking forward to their next vacation or party.
Raluca Ioana Avram
To Stephanie, the athlete oath isn't just a saying. It's a valuable tool for overcoming her greatest fears. Being involved in Special Olympics has given Stephanie the confidence she needs to celebrate her abilities and pursue her dreams. As a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger and a Health Messenger, she wants to promote health and educate young athletes.
Lynna Marie Hodgson
Su Xing “Jack” Zheng