Completely satisfied New Yr, everybody! Are you able to imagine it’s 2023?! It’s so arduous to think about that 4 years in my position as an SSIGM have already passed by. I can actually say these years have actually been full of journey and the sudden.

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 position as a SSIGM.

2019 started with me studying my position 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 complete world, gathered as one, for sports activities and we had been referred to as The Decided. This broke my coronary heart with a type of pleasure I had by no means had. I realized 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 do exactly 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 & displaying what inclusion can do, in case you are 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 desires of one other 12 months 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 dwelling, but it surely additionally led me to a brand new place referred to as Zoom. With Zoom I realized a couple of 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 classes and talking engagements with my fellow athletes from the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. I realized 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 day by 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 manner “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 needed to remain related and hopefully be efficient. What I didn’t know was that one other life change was coming my manner. In contrast to COVID, this was one I may get enthusiastic about. In June, my household & I took the large 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. provided me the chance to be a guide 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 quicker 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 by way of Zoom, Groups, and plenty of different web platforms I’d by no means heard of. In my position with Unified Management, I used to be in a position to 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 Staff member, I gave enter concerning the Well being Messenger program and spoke to outdoors 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 match the athletes participated in, we had been examples to the world of the opportunity of dwelling 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 strategy with fellow athlete chief Bruce Clark and Particular Olympics workers members Brandon Schatsiek and Jereme Ballinger, in addition to co-leading classes on Introduction to Regulation Enforcement Servicing These with Autism Spectrum Dysfunction, with retired police officer Stan Campbell. Boy what a 12 months, 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 making an attempt to think about what message I wish to share with you as I enter my ultimate 12 months as an SSIGM. However what ought to I say? What message do I wish to share? These are the questions which were going by my thoughts since I began scripting this weblog. Truthfully, this can be a powerful resolution 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 feel 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 taking part in area, 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 function on this world. It’d take some time to seek out it, but it surely is on the market. You simply should hold working the race and never lose religion and a couple of) I at all times hope that my story will encourage change in how others see folks with mental disabilities. I hope they may see the flexibility 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 by way of Zoom to Particular Olympics companions all over the world or inside my position as an Athlete Chief for Particular Olympics Texas by singing on the subsequent Breakfast for Champions. There are such a lot of avenues which can be on the market to exhibit inclusion that it’s arduous to deal with 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 imagine in by Going all Inclusive throughout 2023!

A Special Olympics athlete dives into a swimming pool.

I’m able to go all on this 12 months!