By: USA Games Correspondent, Tynan Gable
The #ImAGameChanger campaign of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games recognizes people from all walks of life who make an impact in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. Despite these heroes’ diversity, each of the nominees demonstrates astounding strength, courage, and will power. These traits are put to good use by Game Changers, who exude an unwavering kindness and promote inclusion and friendship in their communities.
This week’s nominee is no different; Antrone (“Coach Juice”) Williams is a stroke survivor with an inspiring story and the desire to change peoples’ lives for the better. Almost ten years ago, Antrone suffered a stroke that nearly ended his life. After waking from ten days in a coma, he spent the next two months in the hospital.
He was enrolled in an experimental drug therapy treatment that was predicted to give him a 50% chance of survival and promised nothing regarding his future quality of life. In addition, he had to relearn how to walk, talk, and do many activities that most of us take for granted.
Supported by his parents, Anna (“Mom Dukes”) and Howard Moore, Antrone has worked tirelessly to recover, and he has long since returned to most of his favorite activities. In fact, he plays on his local community’s Special Olympics basketball team and will be taking up other sports this spring.
With the help of his cousin, Damien Womack, Antrone delivers educational and motivational speeches around his hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio. The two call themselves “Team How,” and they work together to acquire funding and write speeches. As a result of this public outreach, Antrone has become well known for his charisma and positivity.
“You’ll never catch Antrone without a smile on his face,” says Damien. “He is in pain almost every day, but you would never know it by looking at him. He doesn’t complain, and he says it’s because he knows there’s always someone who has it worse than he does.”
Antrone has spoken in front of crowds at schools, community centers, support groups, and homes for the elderly. His message is always positive, but he tailors it to the challenges his audience is most likely facing in their current stage of life. In general, he tries to communicate something like the following to all of his audiences:
“Life isn’t over just because it hits you hard and you fall down. You can always get back up again and achieve great goals if you put your mind to it.”
While the lives he has touched with his story are numerous, there are a few people for whom Antrone always tries to be at his best. Memories of his Grandmother, Lucy Lee Williams, which remain vividly with Antrone despite her passing, remind him to never give up. He works hard to improve his and others’ lives in her honor, and he even took her last name.
He also has two daughters, both whom have his original last name, Moore: Keyana is a 13-year old he nicknamed “Princess Keke” and Takila is a 17-year-old he calls “Pooh”. The girls were five and eight years old, respectively, when Antrone had his stroke.
Antrone, having the ability to put a positive spin on any situation, explains that this has given him “an opportunity to show my kids that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t be great. I keep telling them: Don’t stop living your life.”
Not only does Antrone advise his children to seize the moment, but he also follows his own advice. He takes advantage of every opportunity to get involved in the community of Bowling Green. This involves volunteering 60 hours per week at Wood Lane School, and also regularly volunteering at the town’s Community Center.
Wood Lane offers educational opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities ranging from children two to 22 years of age. All educational programs include learning of school subject knowledge, which are customized for each student to improve body mobility, social skills, self-care, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency, and/or overall independence.
In addition to their school program, Wood Lane also offers clubs and extracurricular programs for adults with developmental disabilities that promote an active and fulfilling lifestyle. The volunteer work at Wood Lane ranges from participating in recreational and leisure activities to assisting with educational programs and community involvement.
Antrone described his work at Wood Lane in greater detail: “I love volunteering at Wood Lane because it reminds me of my past and how far I’ve come. I connect with a lot of the kids because of my experiences, so I try to bring a smile to someone’s face every day… If I can do that, then I am doing my job.”
He makes a similar impact at the Community Center, where he participates in a variety of sports alongside children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is the children at the Community Center, several of whom see him as a mentor, who gave Antrone his nickname, Coach Juice.
“The kids ask me a lot of questions. I definitely don’t always know the answers, but I always give the best advice I can,” says Antrone.
And it seems like that’s all one can ask of a true Game Changer; to always give their best effort to make a difference. Antrone exemplifies how to defy the odds and reach your goals despite any obstacles.
As Damien put it, he is truly “the definition of Game Changer #Greatness.”