2018 USA Games Game Changers
Bobby Striggow - Minnesota
Nominated by Orono High School teacher Michelle Swenson, Bobby is a mentor for a Special Olympics athlete and the coach of a Unified flag football team in Long Lake, MN. He is also a member of the Unified basketball team selected to compete at the 2018 USA Games in July.
amanda geno - missouri
As a law enforcement officer with the Lee’s Summit Missouri Police Department, Amanda plays a big role in the yearly Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Missouri. In addition, she is a Unified partner in floor hockey, bowling and softball with Special Olympic athlete Brittany Selken, and is the Chair for the Kansas City Metro Polar Plunge which raises about $300,000 each year
Lee-Davis High School - Virginia
Nominated by teacher Sara Salvato, Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, VA goes above and beyond to make sure students with intellectual disabilities are not only included, but welcomed. With their Functional Academics and Champions Together programs, students with intellectual disabilities have equal opportunitities both on the field and in the classroom.
stacy gillett - washington
Growing up with a younger sister who has Down Syndrome and Autism, Stacy noticed the lack of programs and educational opportunities available to people with intellectual disabilities and began to challenge the status quo and push for improvements. Three decades later, as the Executive Director of The Arc of King County, her work is dedicated to serving all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across their lifespan.
tim hughes - idaho
At a dance held in conjunction with the State games, Tim Hughes vowed to try to coach every person in attendance if he could. For the last seven years, he has worked with Special Olympics Idaho and has coached floor hockey, soccer, swimming, track, and bowling. He is dedicated to healthy lifestyles, encouraging athletes to try new sports, as well as building a community where different abilities belong and are celebrated.
The Coca-Cola Company - georgia
The Coca-Cola Company has impacted Special Olympics for nearly 50 years and has provided more than $190 million in support of its programs. As a partner of the 2018 USA Games, they will continue their commitment to inclusion by hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities to be part of their activation team during the USA Games.
PAstor Peggy Roy - Florida
Nominated by Susan Carleton, the mother of two children with autism, Pastor Peggy Roy started a program called “The Hangout” as a monthly event for people with intellectual disabilities. The purpose was to create a safe space for them as well as to allow parents and caregivers a much deserved break. As part of her loving and accepting nature, both of Susan's children have benefited from the warm, tolerant and inclusive environment that Pastor Peggy has created.
Lauren petrick - Florida
Nominated by her cousin, Morgan, Lauren Petrick started her own company, a non-profit foundation, called Learning Enriched Athletic Program or LEAP. There, she specializes in working with aspiring gymnasts who have intellectual disabilities and has four athletes who have qualified to compete at the 2018 USA Games in July as part of Special Olympics Florida.
AUDREY VERREt - Missouri
Verret has been involved with Special Olympics since she was a college student and has continued to stay involved with local programs as she has moved around the country. In Missouri, she runs events, sits on committees, mentors an athlete, actively solicits support from other community members and her passion for Special Olympics inspired her new company to become financially involved.
Jessica minard - Ohio
Jessica works as a a Special Education teacher in Sylvania, Ohio and spends time every summer working with young people with disabilities at a camp. In addition, she's also been a Special Olympics basketball coach and has implemented a program called Project UNIFY in the Sylvania School System. The program has been so successful and encouraging that she has been approached by other school districts for guidance in developing their own program.
Macho Madness - South Dakota
With a developmental disorder called Smith Magenis Syndrome, Kaylor McDaniel has a symptom that causes her to be sleepy during the day and awake at night. One day, her father brought her to his 5:00am workout class and the group's overwhelming acceptance and inclusion of her into their family brought him to tears.
Will Larson - Minnesota
As a senior in high school, Will's participation in the Special Olympics movement runs deep. He's not only a partner in Unified bowling, flag football and basketball, but he is also the President of the Student Board of Directors for Special Olympics Minnesota, where he is currently working on a project to help bring the Unified club and sports into more schools around the state.
Anna Angrisano - Washington
Anna is developmentally delayed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. She has been a page assistant at the Lake Hills Library for over 10 years and has been outperforming her assigned duties from the very beginning. Her passion has pushed her into becoming an outspoken advocate to help ensure that King Country Libraries are being run in a way that is sensitive and inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.
Mary Ward Lupinacci - Washington
Mary is a teacher, counselor and yoga instructor in Spokane, WA. She created a program called Be Still Kids where she teaches yoga and mindfulness to children with intellectual disabilities. Her practice helps children learn how to self-regulate and develop their identities. She travels around the state and country to work with school districts and teachers to educate and share her knowledge.
Amanda mcmahon - Washington
As a PhD student at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, Amanda is using virtual reality technology to increase motivation for exercise. She has found that the technology has also helped to create greater awareness of nutritional needs and increased mindfulness which contributes to an overall improvement of self-regulation. Her findings will help to benefit and improve the overall quality life of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Steve Valach - Washington
As the head football coach of Liberty High School, Coach Valach welcomed Kevin McCarthy, a student with Down syndrome to be the manager. He encouraged his team to embrace their roles as teachers and peer mentors and to interact with Kevin. They treat him like a regular guy and have helped shape how he sees himself in the world. He has gained confidence in public speaking, articulating his ideas because of these positive interactions.
Victoria and eugenia fantoni - Washington
At just eight and 10 years old, these sisters have welcomed their classmate, Kate, who has Down syndrome, with open arms. They are attached at the hip and find inclusive activities to do together, like puzzles, playing games and watching movies. Victoria and Kate even celebrate their birthdays together, which are one day apart. The girls are patient, accommodating, and always willing to step up to volunteer or be Kate's partner.
nihan uslu - southern california
After 5 years of being a sedentary, uninvolved young adult, Nihan was encouraged to re-engage in her community through physical activity. With the help of her yoga instructor, Ms. Gigi, she's stronger, healthier and more confident. With that transformation, she's now an assistant at the yoga studio and encourages new students to achieve their fitness goals the way that she did. She's also enrolled in horticultural school and proves what it means to be a role model for young adults with special needs in more ways than one.
Bill Herman - Washington
After a business trip to South Africa where he filmed an ad highlighting how Microsoft's Cloud technology empowers Special Olympics to manage data for their 4.9 million athletes, Bill returned home to Seattle, eager and inspired to get involved with Special Olympics Washington (SOWA). When he found out that SOWA didn't have a bocce league, he created his own. Two of the athletes he coaches will be competing at the 2018 USA Games where he will also be the volunteer manager at the bocce competitions throughout the week.
Billy footwear - Washington
After an accident left founder, Billy Price, paralyzed, he set out on a mission to design shoes catered toward people of all abilities and the shoes are easy to put on for those with limited hand and/or foot mobility and strength. The goal is to help people achieve nominal independence or a peace of mind regarding the little things, so they can focus on other parts of their days.
Antrone Williams - Ohio
As a Special Olympics athlete and stroke survivor, Antrone delivers educational and motivational speeches around his hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio with his cousin. He has spoken in front of crowds at schools, community centers, support groups, and homes for the elderly. He also volunteers at Wood Lane School, which offers educational opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities ranging from children two to 22 years of age.
orono unified mentors - minnesota
High school students, Fisher Eiss, Sam Perry, Thomas Lecy, Holly Harrison and Danny Striggow are all part of the Orono Unified Mentors program and utilize their free or study hall periods to engage both socially and academically with students who have disabilities. In the classroom, mentors may be asked to read with their mentees, work through assignments, or play with them at recess. Their tasks are determined by the needs of each individual mentee and the mentors are often able to encourage their mentees to perform at a higher level as they are more willing to open up and show off all they can do to their peers.
carson libby - minnesota
At just 12 years old, Carson helps his sister, who suffered an injury at birth, with little things around the house and ften elects to do things that she enjoys and can feel successful in. In addition to helping out at home, he does the same in the community. He spent his recess days in elementary school making sure to include as many of his Special Olympics friends as possible. Now, as a middle schooler, he brings that same inclusive spirit with him to school every day and always tries to find people to sit with at lunch who may be sitting alone, and he high-fives and hugs his Special Olympics friends in the hallways.
aimee libby - minnesota
Aimee transitioned from a small volunteer marketing role to an advocate and leader for the Albertville delegation of Special Olympics Minnesota. She has started several community events outside of the sports arena, including the annual Unified choir concert. She also takes her teams on field trips to the Mall of America and weekly bingo at a local assisted living facility. In addition, she has helped to fundraise almost $20,000 that will sponsor the Albertville Unified flag football team travelling to Seattle to compete in the 2018 USA Games.
lazy dog adventures - florida
Lazy Dog is an eco-tour adventure and water sport company on the island of Key West, Florida. The owner, Sue Cooper, provides coaching and training for stand up paddleboarding to interested Special Olympics athletes for the past eight years. The policy of promoting a fun and inclusive environment is the biggest priority at Lazy Dog and it shows. The Special Olympics athletes are now a part of weekly trainings and have the necessary skills and proper safety techniques to do SUP on their own.
delaney foster - washington
Delaney's sister, Kendall, was diagnosed with Autism at a young age and she wanted to find a way for her to be included. In high school, she developed Unified Robotics, where students with special needs could work together to build robots and compete, while having access to STEM education.
paul brooks - nevada
At just 24 years old, Paul has been competing in Special Olympics for ten years. He is also a Global Ambassador for Best Buddies, an organization that unites those with disabilities with a “buddy” in the community. He plans to use his passion for helping others and the associate degree in Communications that he will receive next year to open a facility that will educate people with disabilities about fitness and nutrition.
sarah cline - texas
Sarah, an employee at Accenture's Austin, TX office is the Engagement Lead for the National Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG) where she has helped build up a group of over 1,400 members. She also developed a monthly event called “Walk in My Shoes” where up to 150 members join a phone call and share their personal experiences with disabilities. Her goal is to "empower persons with disabilities, champion disclosure, challenge perceptions, embrace different perspectives, and foster the accessibility first mindset."
laurie skinner - florida
After Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September of 2017, Special Olympics Monroe County saw a significant decrease in participation and volunteer involvement due to the devastation of the storm. Laurie Skinner, a long-time Special Olympics volunteer, stepped up to the plate to source a local community pool to use in place of the athletes’ normal university training facility that was closed following the hurricane. She also hosted fundraisers that amounted to a contribution of over $20,000 and started an informal pizza night every Friday after practice, which has become a weekly high point for many of the competitors and their families.
rogan zangari - washington
Beginning as a junior in high school, Rogan showed a wholehearted gift for engaging both typically developing children and differently abled children. He is a summer camp counselor at Seattle Children’s PlayGarden, where plays alongside the children to engage and teach them about gardening, cooking, and other activities related to “nature play.” He also stepped into the volunteer role of “Outreach Coordinator” at his high school at the start of his senior year, in which he utilizes his past experiences to integrate students with IDDs into the school community. Now that he is prepared for graduation and looking to college, he is hoping to study Cognitive Science or Psychology so that he can utilize his education to continue his game changing efforts long into the future
zoocorps - washington
ZooCorps is Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program and extends to all teens, no matter their abilities. The program allows teens to explore different departments within the zoo from animal care to horticulture and provides education at exhibits and camps. Jonah, a member of the ZooCorps team with special needs has been welcomed, included and able to work towards being an animal trainer, something he’s wanted to do all of his life.
kathy gilmore - florida
As a triathlon competitor, Kathy made it her personal mission to involve Special Olympics athletes in her favorite sport. She recruited Special Olympics swimmers, bikers and runners to train with her, customizing workouts to best fit each individual athlete’s needs. She instructed athletes in open water swimming and both preached and demonstrated proper triathlon etiquette. Due to her efforts, Special Olympics athletes are more recognized and acknowledged throughout the community of Key West.
phillip stevens - kansas
As the owner of a weightlifting gym, Phillip coaches seven powerlifting athletes from Special Olympics Kansas. He teaches the athletes about nutrition, long-term health, appropriate decision-making and how to lead active lifestyles. In addition, he encourages the athletes to control stress and frustration from the day until it can be used as fuel for their training sessions, thus confronting some of their behavioral challenges.