MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT


Welcome to our first edition of IMPACT.

We hope that you enjoy the stories that bring to life the impact that Special Olympics Maryland has everyday across the state as we transform the lives of 6,500 individuals with intellectual disabilities, their families and communities, through meaningful sport experiences, health promotion and leadership programs, while also promoting inclusive communities of respect and dignity through education and awareness on and off the field. For those of you who have supported the Special Olympics Maryland mission as a donor or volunteer, I want to thank you for everything that you do to help create communities of dignity and respect for our athletes. Communities across Maryland are better because of you.

I welcome feedback, so please feel free to contact me with any thoughts that you have related to our efforts and the program.

All the best,

James C. Schmutz
President and CEO
Special Olympics, Maryland

A THANK YOU FROM THE BAKERS

We received the following letter from Peggy and Bob Baker after the 2013 Golf NIT in New Jersey. They are parents of Stephanie, a Special Olympics Maryland athlete from Howard County.

We wanted to share the impact that Special Olympics has on individual athletes, with families, and with volunteers.

 

Thanks Peggy, Bob, and Stephanie for letting us share this.

"A very heartfelt THANK YOU for the wonderful weekend at the Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament! It was so exciting and such a special weekend of memories! When Stephanie was born and during her early years of life, Bob and I never would have imagined her participating in an event like this, let alone being able to golf!  This was the first time Stephanie has ever attended and participated in a competition/event beyond the state level. Watching Stephanie and Bob golf and at the awards ceremonies was a very emotional milestone.

Reflecting back on Stephanie’s 29 years of life, there are two organizations that have helped us navigate the peaks and valleys of Stephanie’s journey through life, Prader-Willi Syndrome Association and Special Olympics. PWSA provides us with the information and support we need to deal with the day-to-day struggles of the syndrome and how it affects Stephanie. Besides the obvious benefit of Stephanie being able to participate in sports, Special Olympics has given her a group of friends. As parents, Special Olympics has provided us with local and state support in networking with other families. We have been able to share experiences and ask other families for help in dealing with the school system and adult-life agencies.  Special Olympics also has given us an outlet as a family to do activities with others that “get” what it is like to have a child with special needs. Special Olympics has also allowed our other daughter, Kim (25), to meet and interact with the siblings of the athletes. During her teenage years it was very reassuring for Kim to know there were others like her dealing with a sister with special needs.

Stephanie is far from being a high-functioning athlete, so also THANK YOU for being open-minded to seeing that athletes similar to her needs (24/7 one-to-one need for supervision) are able to successfully participate in national competitions/events with the proper supports in place. You have no idea on a personal level how successful Stephanie was the past four days!  We and our extended family are overwhelmed and so proud of Stephanie! Thank you for allowing Stephanie to win and to be brave in the attempt!

With warmest regards,
Peggy and Bob

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH … MICHELLE DENISTON

1. How does it feel to be going to the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games?

It is a privilege to have been chosen for Team Maryland for the 2014 USA Games. I will be competing in golf, along with my unified partner and friend, Joe Ciambra. He is like a second brother to me and a great supporter of Special Olympics.

2. How long have you been a Special Olympics Maryland athlete?

I have been with Charles County, Maryland, Special Olympics for the past 30 years. I started when I was only 8 years old.

3. What sports have you participated in?

Over the past 30 years, I have competed in the following Special Olympic sports: Swimming, Track and Field, Basketball, Bocce, Golf, Bowling, Volleyball, Skiing, and Table Tennis.

4. What would life be like without Special Olympics?

Without Special Olympics, I would probably only stay at home and be bored. With Special Olympics I am always playing in one sport or another, going to dances, parties, and being with my friends Special Olympics means so much to me. It is like a second family. I get to be with my friends and compete in different sports. We have dances, parties, and I get to play in sports like, bowling, bocce, golf and much more. My family are all great supporters of Special Olympics. They make sure I get to all my games, and my mom and brother are unified partners with some of my friends.

5. What else would you like people to know about you?

When I was about 9 years old, I was competing in Track and Field at Towson University for Maryland State Games. Channel 4 Wide World of Sports picked me to film while I was running. They made a story about me and my family and Special Olympics, and I was on T.V. Even my family in California got to see me.

I also had the privilege to meet Mrs. Eunice Shriver when she came to our state competition when I was younger. I am sure she is still watching over all of the athletes and she is proud of us all.

I am so proud to have been chosen to be on Team Maryland and to play golf with my partner, Joe Ciambra, in the 2014 Team USA Games in New Jersey. Go Team Maryland!

New Jersey will host 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from across the country at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games June 14th-21st, 2014. The Team Maryland delegation includes 160 Special Olympics Maryland athletes and 40 volunteer coaches/staff members. Our athletes will compete in Aquatics, Athletics, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Flag Football, Volleyball, Golf, Power Lifting, Soccer, Softball, and Tennis. For more information on the Games visit www.2014specialolympics.org.

MICHAEL’S STORY

This past August, Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD) athlete Michael Adams of Chestertown competed in the United States Canoe Association (USCA) National Championships in Newaygo, MI.

Coached by Jack Brosius, member of the 1972 USA Olympic Kayak team that competed in Munich, Michael entered this championship as a way of challenging himself beyond competitions offered by SOMD. In addition to having an intellectual disability, Michael has a lower-limb disability due to cerebral palsy, making him eligible to race in para canoe (a class of competition in Paralympics). This class includes paddlers with lower-limb disabilities or who have lost a leg or part of a leg due to birth issues, accidents, or in the case of Wounded Warriors, battle injuries. According to Brosius, “Most of these paddlers are larger and stronger than Michael, but he still does well against them in competition.” Michael took 2nd place with a time of 4:46 minutes in the 500M race.

Coach Brosuis put no limitations on Michael, in fact he challenged Michael to achieve his best, and Michael delivered by focusing on his limitless potential. Michael’s second place victory results from support from people like you. Michael’s life has been forever changed by his passionate coach. At the same time, Michael’s efforts in turn transform lives as he inspires all Marylanders to understand that performance in life has no boundaries.

MICHAEL AND DAN - Holding the Rope

At our Champions Together Breakfast in the fall, Special Olympics Maryland athlete Michael Heup shared with his fellow athletes and supporters what it takes to become a champion: we must all “hold the rope.” Here is an edited version of Michael’s presentation.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen!

My name is Michael Heup, and I have been a Special Olympics athlete for 13 years.

I feel very honored to be able to introduce to you my amazing friend and fellow athlete, Dan Tuchholski, who has been an athlete for 22 years! Dan and I would like to share a very special story that we believe will help you better understand what we are all about.

You see, last year during our summer track and field events, I was reminded of an inspirational story that my sister’s lacrosse coach told her team 13 years ago. Some of you may have heard of this story known in the sports world as “Hold the Rope.” “What is Hold the Rope?” you ask.

The story tells you to imagine that you are hanging from a cliff with a drop of 20,000 feet, and the only thing keeping you from falling is that one person of your choice at the other end who you know you can count on to have the guts to pull you to safety.

Coaches tell their players to look at every member of their team and ask themselves who will hold the rope for them. The teams who can say that not one but ALL of their players can be counted on are the ones who will be the champions.

We think Special Olympics is one of the greatest examples in the sports world of “Hold the Rope.” They are out there every day for all of us athletes.

Last year many of us witnessed the ultimate demonstration of Special Olympics holding the rope. This is where my buddy, Dan, comes in. You see, Dan is losing his eyesight. At this point he really has no vision at all. Sports have become more difficult for Dan, and he was starting to think he would be unable to participate in the future.

He was also starting to feel very isolated! Special Olympics and Dan’s buddies were not about to let that happen!

Dan is our teammate and has always run track with us, but with his poor eyesight it is difficult for him to see the lines on the track. If he should run out of his lane and cross the lines while running, he would be disqualified and he might run into another athlete.

So when it came time for Dan to run his individual race AND be the ANCHOR for his relay team, it wasn’t a problem, after all! That is because Dan’s team, coaches, friends, and volunteers were there to hold the rope for him LITERALLY! They stood along the outside lane of the track and held a rope that helped guide Dan to the finish line. Each person let go as Dan got to them, and he finished his races without any problem!

It takes many people to “hold the rope” and change the lives of all of us athletes. Our coaches, volunteers, staff, sponsors, community members, and Law Enforcement Torch Run members are all our heroes! WE are champions together.

Thank you for coming, holding the rope, and CHANGING LIVES!

CHAMPIONS TOGETHER BREAKFAST

On Tuesday November 19th, over 150 people, including 30 athletes, attended the first Champions Together Breakfast at Towson University. The event opened with 2 athletes on stage, Michael and Dan (read more about their story in this newsletter) as they introduced over 20 athletes who paraded into the room carrying the torch and joined in reciting the Athlete Oath.

Later on stage, Michael and Dan were joined by their moms and Ravens Center Gino Gradkowski as they shared how Special Olympics Maryland has impacted their lives. The purpose of this annual breakfast is to connect people to our mission and inspire them to support the future of our organization. Thanks to the support of those who attended, we raised over $105,000 to be paid over 5 years, and 17 people joined the Champions Together Society at $1,000 a year for 5 Years.

PLUNGE ON!

With a two-foot wall of ice on the beach and wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour on the morning of our annual Polar Bear Plunge, we moved quickly to assess the situation and in consultation with the Maryland State Police (MSP), the Maryland Park Service, (MPS) and Natural Resources Police,(NRP ) determined that extreme conditions at Sandy Point State Park were unsafe for 7,000 plungers. For the first time in 17 year history of the event the MSP Polar Bear Plunge was cancelled. Thanks to the relentless efforts of our partners to mobilize and commit the necessary resources, we have been able to re-schedule the plunge for March 8

Even with the wall of ice, Special Olympics Maryland supporters showed their loyalty to the mission. Despite the official cancellation of the event, many people chose to “take the plunge” at their homes in their own ways. Pools, buckets, and bathtubs were fair game. Those who “take the plunge” each have their own reasons for making their impact on Special Olympics Maryland. Their stories inspire us all. “I dedicate my plunges to my nephew, Eiann, who was born with Down syndrome, a hole in his heart and leukemia,” says John. “If he can smile and stay positive through all of what he is going through, the very least I can do is help support a charity that will help him achieve the greatness he deserves.” Katie plunges for her older sister Carol who participated in Special Olympics Maryland for more than 20 years. “I’ll be wearing one of her gold medals again when I hit the water!” “I do the plunge because of my daughter Heather, who inspires me every day in every way,” says Roger. “I love what Maryland Special Olympics has done for our family.” The Polar Bear Plunge helps to raise awareness and much needed funds for our organization. As we work to reschedule to provide the plungers the plunge they deserve, we’re reminded that each and every one of our Special Olympic Athletes has learned what it means to adapt to conditions beyond their control and to move ahead despite unexpected setbacks. Their strength, dedication, and discipline is a reminder and inspiration to us at moments like these. Thank you for your overwhelming support in the face of disappointment. And we hope you’ll join us at Sandy Point State Park for Plunge take two on March 8!  The Plunge has been rescheduled for March 8th, 2014, at Sandy Point State Park with a Plunge only format. 11:00am - PeeWee/Family Plunge Noon - Plunge 1 1:00pm - Plunge 2 2:00pm - Plunge 3 Heated tents will be available for plungers to change. Food will be provided for Plungers. If you have not picked up your sweatshirt, they will be available for you to pick up on site. If you have friends who haven’t registered, invite them to join you…there is still time. If you have additional friends who might support you, you can still raise more money for Special Olympics Maryland. For more information on the plunge visit www.plungemd.com.

PLANNED GIVING

Legacy gifts enable you to make a lasting contribution to Special Olympics Maryland at a level you may not have been able to achieve during your lifetime. Naming Special Olympics Maryland as a beneficiary in a Will or Living Trust, Insurance Policy or IRA/Retirement Plan are common examples of legacy gifts.

Another planned giving option allows donors to support Special Olympics Maryland and receive tax relief by leveraging certain kinds of appreciated assets, such as stock. Charitable Remainder Trusts and Charitable Lead Trusts are two examples of this kind of planned gift.

Please keep in mind that Special Olympics Maryland is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory services and that advice from legal counsel, such as an attorney or other professional advisor, should be sought when considering these types of gifts. Special Olympics Maryland will be happy to work with your advisor to ensure that your gift will have the greatest possible impact on our mission to serve athletes with intellectual disabilities.

If you have already included Special Olympics Maryland in your estate plans, please let us know so that we may thank you. If not and you would like to find out more, please contact: Sue Jacobs, Sr. Director of Donor Development. Tel: 410-242-1515 ext. 104 | Email: sjacobs@somd.org.

OPEN HOUSE TOURS

We invite you to join us for an Open House and Tour of Special Olympics Maryland as we Reveal the Champion in All of Us.

Come join us for refreshments and meet a few of the athletes, staff, and board members as we share our mission and future goals with you.

The Open House Tour will take place from 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Upcoming dates include:

Thursday, February 20

Thursday, March 13

Thursday, April 10

Wednesday, May 14

Thursday, June 12

Please RSVP to Sue Jacobs at 410-242-1515 ext. 104 or sjacobs@somd.org.