Completely happy New Yr, everybody! Are you able to consider it’s 2023?! It’s so arduous to think about that 4 years in my function as an SSIGM have already passed by. I can truthfully say these years have definitely been stuffed with journey and the surprising.

Two women stand behind a sign that says #MeetTheDetermined.

Attending the Particular Olympics World Video games Abu Dhabi 2019 was an incredible introduction to my function as a SSIGM.

2019 started with me studying my function within the #InclusionRevolution as a Sargent Shriver Worldwide International Messenger, SSIGM for brief, as I attended the 2019 World Video games in Abu Dhabi. That is the place we, the athletes, had been referred to as “The Decided.” Decided? I had by no means been referred to as decided earlier than. I had been referred to as sluggish, retarded, and silly, however by no means decided. Right here all of us had been, from across the total world, gathered as one, for sports activities and we had been referred to as The Decided. This broke my coronary heart with a sort of pleasure I had by no means had. I discovered to “#meetthedetermined” on my social media and I couldn’t wait to share the message of inclusion with anybody who would pay attention. The chance to just do that got here quickly after when the Financial institution of America invited me to talk in Boston and organized for me to sing the Nationwide Anthem at Fenway Park for the Boston Crimson Sox. Right here I used to be, down on the sphere, being decided & exhibiting what inclusion can do, if you’re solely given the prospect.

A woman stands on a baseball field behind a microphone.

Due to Financial institution of America, I had the once-in-a-lifetime expertise of singing the Nationwide Anthem at Fenway Park!

I used to be wanting ahead to breezing into 2020 with hopes and goals of one other yr to unfold the message of inclusion. However in 2020 we had been all confronted with one thing that might change our lives, one thing referred to as COVID-19. Oh boy that was powerful. COVID taught us about social distancing, carrying masks and staying at house, but it surely additionally led me to a brand new place referred to as Zoom. With Zoom I discovered a few new world and that world related me farther than I’ve ever been related earlier than. I joined in Particular Olympics Zoom dances, digital competitions, mindfulness periods and talking engagements with my fellow athletes from the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. I discovered new methods to maintain the message of inclusion alive by attending worldwide conferences and talking on the Particular Chronicles podcast concerning the very actual well being wants that individuals with mental disabilities face every single day, however particularly throughout COVID. I used to be in a world I had by no means been in earlier than, hoping that the messages I used to be sending had been like beacons of sunshine to others, because the COVID darkness tried to cowl us.

Earlier than I knew it, we cautiously crept into 2021. In Hawaii, many COVID restrictions continued and the necessity to journey alongside the Zoom freeway was our solely approach “off island,” as we are saying. I seized each alternative that this new digital world afforded me to unfold consciousness about Particular Olympics and the athletes that Particular Olympics helps as a result of I wished to remain related and hopefully be efficient. What I didn’t know was that one other life change was coming my approach. Not like COVID, this was one I may get enthusiastic about. In June, my household & I took the massive leap of religion to start our future in one other new world referred to as The Mainland. A hui hou Hawaii, Aloha Texas. Earlier than I even had time to overlook my island life, Particular Olympics Texas welcomed me with open arms, and Particular Olympics, Inc. supplied me the chance to be a marketing consultant with the Organizational Excellence and Well being groups at Particular Olympics, Inc.

A woman wearing a cowboy hat gives a thumbs up to the camera.

Truthfully, I sailed sooner than I may have imagined straight into 2022 the place I co-led a superb new coaching program referred to as Unified Management and I labored with the inclusive well being staff through Zoom, Groups, and plenty of different web platforms I’d by no means heard of. In my function with Unified Management, I used to be capable of make clear what it’s wish to be a person with mental disabilities that has struggled within the office and shared the significance of getting athletes as leaders. On the similar time, as a Well being Workforce member, I gave enter concerning the Well being Messenger program and spoke to exterior organizations concerning the struggles I’ve confronted being a person with an ‘invisible incapacity.’ 2022 continued to be a breath of recent air as Particular Olympics athletes gathered, in particular person, for the primary time since 2019, on the USA Video games in Orlando, FL. As I watched all of the athletes coming into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony, I may really feel our mild shining out to all of the world, as if to say: Collectively, We Shine as One! Whereas I used to be there, I knew that with every presentation I gave and with every event the athletes participated in, we had been examples to the world of the potential for residing unified.

A split screen shows a female Special Olympics athlete standing on stage and speaking into a microphone.

Throughout Opening Ceremony, I received to introduce Sara Bareilles and dance with Donald Duck!

However 2022 didn’t cease there. Nope. The 2022 Regulation Enforcement Torch Run Worldwide Convention was held in Texas and as a Particular Olympics Texas athlete chief, I used to be invited to share my private story of how Particular Olympics has modified my life. I additionally had the chance to exhibit Unified Management by co-leading a session on the Unified Management method with fellow athlete chief Bruce Clark and Particular Olympics employees members Brandon Schatsiek and Jereme Ballinger, in addition to co-leading periods on Introduction to Regulation Enforcement Servicing These with Autism Spectrum Dysfunction, with retired police officer Stan Campbell. Boy what a yr, but it surely was not over but! I might wrap up 2022 spreading the message of the significance of Inclusion by doing a social media tour with Champion Ambassador Miss America Emma Broyles herself! I hope that the audiences we reached will take the significance of working towards an inclusive world to coronary heart and are available out to see what Particular Olympics is all about.

Two women sit in chairs, posing for a photo.

Sharing our mission alongside Miss America Emma Broyles throughout a media tour was a spotlight of 2022!

So, right here we’re and 2023 has simply begun. I’ve been attempting to think about what message I wish to share with you as I enter my ultimate yr as an SSIGM. However what ought to I say? What message do I wish to share? These are the questions which have been going by my thoughts since I began scripting this weblog. Truthfully, this can be a powerful determination to make. There are such a lot of issues that I wish to say that it’s arduous to place them collectively into one thought, however I’ll do my finest. I believe that if there’s one factor that I hope to proceed to do as an SSIGM, it will be to unfold the message of inclusion by sharing my story and my journey in Particular Olympics with as many individuals as I can. Each time I get the chance to share how Particular Olympics has taken me from the sidelines of life and put me on the enjoying discipline, I really feel like I’m making a distinction, not simply in my life however within the lives of all of us with mental disabilities in 2 methods: 1) I would like everybody who has ever felt small and undesirable, like I as soon as felt, to know that they’ve a spot and a objective on this world. It’d take some time to seek out it, but it surely is on the market. You simply should maintain working the race and never lose religion and a pair of) I at all times hope that my story will encourage change in how others see individuals with mental disabilities. I hope they are going to see the power and never the incapacity. That’s the change we’re striving for in our Inclusion Revolution.

Perhaps I’ll get to do that by giving a speech on the 2023 World Video games in Berlin this summer season or by giving an Inclusive Well being presentation through Zoom to Particular Olympics companions world wide or inside my function as an Athlete Chief for Particular Olympics Texas by singing on the subsequent Breakfast for Champions. There are such a lot of avenues which are on the market to exhibit inclusion that it’s arduous to give attention to only one. Who is aware of, possibly I’ll get to do all three!

All I do know is that that is the start of one other nice journey to face for what I consider in by Going all Inclusive throughout 2023!

A Special Olympics athlete dives into a swimming pool.

I’m able to go all on this yr!