By: USA Games Correspondent, Mike Gastineau
“Bobby Striggow has been a game changer since he first stepped in the halls of Orono High School.”
Those are the words of Orono High School teacher Michelle Swenson who nominated Striggow to be recognized by the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games as someone who is changing the game for people with intellectual disabilities. The depth of Striggow’s involvement with his school’s program in Long Lake, Minnesota is indeed inspiring, and he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
“My older brother Jackson and my older sister Hannah were both very involved in the Special Olympics program and they kind of dragged me into it,” Striggow said. “When I was a freshman I was a really quiet kid and helping the students who were in Special Olympics helped open me up a bit.”
Striggow’s work for Special Olympics within his school is so thorough that it’s tempting to wonder if there’s anything he’s not doing. He has worked with the bowling, basketball, soccer, and athletics teams. He’s the coach of the Unified flag football team and as such has watched the program grow to an impressive size.
“We have so many people who want to be involved in our unified flag football program that we have to say no to some people,” he said. “Everyone sees how fun it can be and they all want to join.”
Striggow has become a mentor for an athlete in Special Olympics named Jacob Stankevitz. Striggow helps him with homework, reading, and social skills and says they’ve become close friends.
He’s given talks to younger students at Orono’s middle school about inclusion and acceptance and those talks inspired students there to start their own Unified sports program. He’s also a member of the Unified basketball team that was recently selected to represent Team Minnesota at the USA Games in Seattle next July.
With all this on his plate it’s amazing he has time for other things, but he’s an honor student who is captain of the Orono High School football and wrestling teams. Swenson says that link to those teams has led to further inclusion within the school.
“Because of Bobby's involvement, several varsity athletes have started to join the movement,” she said. “They often tell me that they hope to make the same difference as he has in the lives of these kids.”
Striggow’s work has clearly impacted a lot of people and he’s no doubt been a positive game changer for people in his school. But as far as he’s concerned this entire thing is a two-way street.
“You start out doing it because it’s a good thing to do. But you don’t realize you’re going to make so many friendships. The longer I was in it the more I wanted to hang out with kids involved in Special Olympics. Everyone involved, including me, gets something out of it.”