by: usa games correspondent, tynan gable
Game Changers truly do come in all shapes and sizes. This week’s nominee for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games #ImAGameChanger campaign is just 12 years old, but he is wise well beyond his years. Dr. Seuss had it right: “A Game Changer is a Game Changer, no matter how small.”
Carson Libby is from the town of Albertville, Minnesota, where he attends school at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West. He lives with his parents, Aimee and Chad, and his older sister, Peyton.
Peyton endured an injury at birth that caused disabilities which inhibit her fine and gross motor skills as well as her verbal and written communication abilities. It’s clear that Carson takes on a big brother role at times, making sure Peyton knows that home is a safe place where she should always feel welcome and included.
Even though they have their tough times like all siblings do, Carson is very intuitive when it comes to his sister. He helps unprompted with things like putting socks on and opening water bottles.
He also is very intentional in choosing activities to do around the house. Carson is cognizant of Peyton’s limitations when they play games and read books together. He often elects to do things that she enjoys and can feel successful in, such as putting on a “concert” on their at-home stage.
Carson always has a strong desire to step in when Peyton is having a tough time, and he tries to acknowledge her achievements whenever he can. He has grown up believing in the idea that everyone deserves an equal chance to have a friend and he exhibits that same mindset whether he is at one of his many Unified Sports practices, in school, or out in the community.
Being one of the first ever Unified Sports athletes in his area, Carson has had the pleasure of watching the program grow around him. At track and field, basketball, and flag football events, he is the first to offer a helping hand with set-up or coaching on the side.
Although he is in middle school now, he spent his recess days in elementary school making sure to include as many of his Special Olympics friends as possible. While he has always been in tune with the unfortunate reality that some of his typically developing peers see his Special Olympics friends in a negative way, this has never stopped him from including them.
Other boys playing football on the playground used to try to exclude some of Carson’s friends with disabilities from playing. But the first opportunity Carson got, he passed the ball to one of his Special Olympics teammates, Quincy, to score a touchdown.
And he did the same thing on the playground basketball court. Carson persistently invited Peter, another friend he met through the Special Olympics, to play. Thanks to his commitment to his friends, he eventually noticed that other people started to include Peter on their own terms.
Now a middle schooler, Carson still brings his enthusiasm and inclusive spirit with him to school every day. He always tries to find people to sit with at lunch who may be sitting alone, and he high-fives and hugs his Special Olympics friends in the hallway to congratulate them for their victories and accomplishments.
Carson’s teachers and the parents of some of his friends at school can attest to the fact that his efforts do not go unnoticed. Aimee and Chad have received compliments many times for the positive impacts Carson is making at school.
And Carson doesn’t stop there; he is also very involved and engaged in the greater Albertville community. As an original member of the town’s Unified Choir, he has seen the program blossom over the years. There are choir members of ages ranging from six to 60, and several Special Olympics athletes are featured in the annual community concerts for their singing and dancing talents.
Today, there is a long list of people whom Carson has inspired to support him and his Special Olympics endeavors. This young boy has such large a following that was he able to raise $1,500 for the Special Olympics by participating in the Polar Plunge last year. He made his efforts known by calling people on the phone, talking to teachers at school, and going door-to-door around the neighborhood.
This all goes to show that Carson’s efforts go way beyond his sister and the Special Olympics, because the Albertville community sees them as well. He’s an old soul, as he has mastered the idea that everyone has value and abilities, even if those abilities may not be the same as his own.
And for all of you reading this, it is possible to make little changes in the way that we think to start making an impact in the same way that Carson does in his community. It starts with a simple change of mindset, focus on what you and those around you CAN do, rather than what you CAN’T, and build yourselves up around that.