50 YEARS OF MAKING HISTORY

ONE STORY AT A TIME

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As we mark 50 years of making the world a more inclusive place, we want to hear your Special Olympics Florida story. Tell us your story by sharing a favorite memory or let us know what our programs have meant to you or the impact they’ve made in your life.  TOGETHER WE CELEBRATE!

  • Written Stories
  • VIDEO STORIES
Collier County
Sue Palmer’s experience with Special Olympics Florida began in Walmart parking lots, handing out fliers and sharing our mission with passersby. “And just like that,” she said, “I was hooked.” Soon enough, Palmer was attending our Summer Games. …
Special Olympics Florida, Executive Director (1984-1994)
Ken Magee spent years championing the Special Olympics mission, but he says you only need a few moments with our athletes to become connected to the movement. “You just have to be around the athletes for a little while before their open-heartednes…
Special Olympics Florida, President and CEO (1996-2012)
Monty Castevens can explain his many roles with Special Olympics pretty succinctly: “You name it, I’ve done it!” Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver commonly referred to Castevens as a ‘pioneer’. He’s been a volunteer, a staff member, and ultim…
Miami-Dade County
Retirement hasn’t been what Hope Jacobson expected. On the day she left Miami-Dade County schools – after a 35-year career – the longtime Special Olympics Florida volunteer found herself in charge of a 5k. It was suddenly hers to run and hers to m…
Martin County
Over her four decades with Special Olympics Florida, Betty Marshall served in virtually every capacity possible with the organization. She coached, volunteered, and helped raise money. She was a mentor, a friend, and a mother figure. In 2019, she bec…
Marion County
I’ve been a Special Olympics Florida athlete for over 30 years. I am an Athlete Leader, which means that I get to help other athletes. I will be going to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in June as an equestrian athlete. The best part of being inv…
Leon County
Kerri started with Special Olympics when she was 8 years old. Now at 36, she is accomplished in swimming and stand up paddle. She continues to swim each day after work with the local swim club ATAC or with her Special Olympics local program. Her fa…
Monroe County
For Pat Hart, Special Olympics Florida is a family affair. It’s a relationship that began more than 40 years ago in Key West. Over four decades, Hart and her husband launched a bowling program for Key West athletes and she, her husband, and her da…
Okaloosa County
Ann James is a Special Olympics Florida original. The Okaloosa County resident has been participating for more years than the organization has existed. It’s possible she’s the very first gold-medal athlete in Florida and the athlete who has compet…
Former SOFL Board President
In the early days of Special Olympics Florida, Marilyn Grigsby wasn’t afraid of a little provocative fundraising.   So, she traveled the state selling yellow buttons that read: “I’m a Florida S.O.B. Ask Me Why.” That’s “S.O.B.” as in “Special Olympi…
Miami-Dade County
Water has always been Andy Miyares’ natural element. He’s been swimming since he was 9 months old and, as a baby, used to dump water over his head for laughs. Since then, he’s been in the pool training almost every day – and he loves it. A…
Seminole County
I started training and competing with Special Olympics Florida in 2009. My first sport was swimming and since then have competed in bowling and bocce. I also used to be an assistant coach for five years, but now I'm only a full-time athlete. Ju…
Okeechobee County
I have Autism. My whole life I struggled with making friends and just communicating with others. My Dad signed me up for Special Olympics, and in my first year I got a gold medal at State Bowling. In my second year, I earned the silver medal …
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) congratulates Special Olympics Florida for 50 years of making a tremendous difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities. The phenomenal concept that Eunice Kennedy Shriver had of encouraging …
Pinellas County
Special Olympics Florida has given Paige Kroupa the chance to learn golf, bowling, volleyball, and cycling. But most importantly, it’s helped Paige develop the confidence to come out of her shell. Once shy and unsure, Paige is now a powerful advoc…
Duval County
My favorite memory took place on July 10, 2021. In the beginning of the year, I was tired of the pandemic. I wanted to find a way to help me lose weight and get more exercise at the same time. I had heard about Chris Nikic and the Ironman he comp…
Former Sr. VP Special Olympics Florida
There was a time, back in the early, exhausting days of Special Olympics Florida, that Nancy Sawyer was known to keep a yoga mat in the organization’s Clermont headquarters. And it wasn’t for mid-day mindfulness exercises.   “Sometimes, there ju…
Seminole County
I began training and competing in Special Olympics in 1996. I used to be shy, but now I am a Tier 2 Coach for track and field and a Global Messenger where I get to speak in front of others at a variety of events throughout the year. Special Olympic…
Polk County
I am a proud mom, Class A volunteer, and a Unified partner. With my son and athlete Mark Dougherty, we train and compete in bowling, bocce and rthymic gymnastics. Mark also competes in swimming and basketball skills, and will soon be adding soccer, …
Broward County
My favorite memory with Special Olympics Florida was at the Mellow Mushroom in North Carolina! We were there to celebrate a week of amazing skiing competitions, and I remember looking up and seeing all my friends and coaches smiling and laughing. Eve…
Miami-Dade County
Traveling to Atlanta United to play against their Unified Athlete Special Olympics Soccer team was an incredible experience for staff, players and coaches. I look forward to many more and to learning from these experiences so that I can take the know…
Pasco County
When Pasco County’s Val Lundin began coaching with Special Olympics Florida almost 40 years ago, she was careful to keep practices simple and basic. That didn’t last long.  “The athletes exceeded all of my expectations,” she said. “I realized I need…
Columbia County
Marci McAdams has been a Special Olympics Florida volunteer for 18 years, taking part in county, area, and state level games. Marci, who’s from Columbia County, has what might be the best volunteer role in all of Special Olympics. She presents athlet…
DeSoto County
Nancy “Eric” Erickson’s relationship with Special Olympics Florida began in 1974 after she left graduate school in Michigan. She stayed with it for 46 years, volunteering in variety of roles, including board secretary, coach, and state competition di…
Special Olympics Florida Staff
Fran Lewis-MacHarg came to Special Olympics Florida through her work as a teenager with people with intellectual disabilities. She’s been a County Coordinator, a coach, and an SOFL staff member. In the early days, athletics (track and field) was the …
Lake County
Maryann Gonzalez has been part of Special Olympics Florida for 49 years, almost as long as Special Olympics Florida has existed. She’s an Athlete Leader, Health Messenger, and former Athlete of the Year. She’s a coach, volunteer, and World Games part…
Hillsborough County
William Corsi has been involved with Special Olympics Florida for more than 20 years. It’s given him a chance to play sports he loves, has improved his skills, and offered him some pretty amazing opportunities. In 2015, William was one of 10 Florida …
Miami-Dade County
David Mallis’ Special Olympics Florida resume goes back 30 years and includes virtually every role possible. He’s an athlete and Athlete Leader, a former member of the Special Olympics Florida board, and a 2009 inductee into the Special Olympics…
Hillsborough County
My daughter, Samantha (Sammy) Cully lived overseas for her first eighteen years. That summer we were visiting Sarasota in the States. We were sitting in the center of the town square in a park when a group of Special Olympics athletes came through. …
Pasco County
As a coach, I have, over the years, watched the athletes of Unified Sports make forever friends, grow in sports, and socialize together at after-school activities. It is so heartwarming to see both athletes and Unified partners grow in so many ways. …
Miami-Dade County
In almost 50 years of advocating for people with intellectual disabilities, Gloria Oyarzun has seen a lot. And some of it still stings.  The longtime Special Olympics Florida coach recalls a time when society tried to ignore people with special need…
Orange County
Apryle Nickson spent 25 years as a Special Olympics Florida swimming coach in Orange County. She’s a former Special Olympics North America Coach of the Year, has coached in two Special Olympics World Games, and will serve as the swimming Competition …
Broward County
My Knights of Columbus Council (17358), in collaboration with other nearby Councils, assisted in making pancakes. Can’t wait to help more next time.…
Pinellas County
I have been raising money now for seven years and this charity is amazing. My cousin has autism, and Special Olympics Florida has changed his life in so many ways. This year for the Polar Plunge, I've raised over $14,000 already. It makes me so happy…
Miami-Dade County
How has Special Olympics Florida changed my life most? It’s enabled me to become self-determined by taking ownership for my health. It's taught me leadership skills and and helped me build a career outside of Special Olympics -- like coaching. It hel…
Miami-Dade County
The Miami Marlins have been proud supporters and champions of the Special Olympics Unified Sports Program since 2014, remaining actively involved with the Unified Softball Team for the past eight years and supporting the Special Olympics Florida Race…
Duval County
Our son Caleb has been involved with Special Olympics Florida since he was just 3, beginning with the Young Athletes Program, and joining the sports side of things when he turned 8. Now 14, he's participated in nine different sports through the years…
Leon County
I have been a voluteer for many years. My favorite memory was when I trained two of my athletes how to ride a bike. They both made it to The State Games, and watching them receive a medal was so moving and touching and made an impact on my life. All …
Palm Beach County
I get to play all of these sports -- especially golf! A couple of years ago, I won two gold medals for golf, two gold medals for swimming, a lot of blue ribbons for bowling and bocce, and second place for cheerleading.…
Pinellas County
I feel accepted, and I feel that I'm not alone anymore. I had been bullied a lot because of my disability, but through Special Olympics Florida, I met good people and made friends to hang out with.…
Palm Beach County
My favorite memory is going to the State Summer Games in 2016 for the first time for track and field! I won two silver medals for the first time, and it felt so good to do that.…
Miami-Dade County
The David L. Singer Memorial Foundation has had the pleasure of working with Special Olympics for almost 40 years and has run a sanctioned Special Olympics event for 25 years. We have seen the Special Olympics organization evolve and grow over the de…
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