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. That first year, she remembers seeing a track and field athlete wearing a helmet for protection. Three years later, he was back on the same track, helmet-free. “It was heart-grabbing,” she said. “He gained so much confidence.”
Palmer has seen lots of stories like that since joining our mission in 1989. She’s filled virtually every volunteer role available, including handing out awards at the end of competitions. That, she said, is “the fun stuff.”
“The joy on their faces is just unbelievable.”
One of the biggest areas of growth she’s seen is Unified Sports. It’s a crucial program, Palmer said, because it plants the seeds of inclusion and acceptance early on, showing students that people with ID deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
“That’s where the real crux of change happens,” Palmer said. “School is where bullying can happen, but the students really took to the Unified Sports program. Soon enough, they were playing together, eating lunch together, welcoming each other into school clubs. Students of all abilities.”