By: USA Games Correspondent, Tynan Gable
There is no shortage of passion when it comes to the work of a Game Changer. Kathy Gilmore, this week’s nominee for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games #ImAGameChanger campaign, demonstrates an endless desire to inspire and create change for a more inclusive community for people with intellectual disabilities.
Kathy is a triathlon competitor and fanatic from the Florida Keys. About two years ago, she made it her personal mission to involve Special Olympics athletes in her favorite sport and sought out athletes competing in the local Special Olympics Program of Monroe County.
She recruited all interested Special Olympics swimmers, bikers and runners to train with her, customizing workouts to best fit each individual athlete’s needs. She instructed athletes in open water swimming, after obtaining certification to instruct such an activity, and both preached and demonstrated proper triathlon etiquette.
Though triathlons were not included in the list of official sports offered by Special Olympics Florida, Kathy had a strong desire to share her passion with these athletes. She held them accountable for training and sought to provide them with unique opportunities and experiences.
Kathy knew that the only local triathlon, the Florida Keys Community College (FKCC) Sprint Tri and Biathlon, offered race divisions for people of all levels of ability. Leveraging her connections in the triathlon community, Kathy obtained support for the athletes on the course, triathlon uniforms and shoes, and any other resources they may have needed in order to register for the 2016 FKCC Triathlon.
That first year, the athletes competed as a relay team. However, earlier in 2018, two Special Olympics athletes successfully competed in the Biathlon alone, with minimal assistance. The athletes have improved their triathlon skills tremendously over the past three years, and Kathy has continued to dedicate her time and energy to making them the best they can be.
The community of the Florida Keys has become much more inclusive and welcoming as a direct result of Kathy’s work with these athletes. In addition, Ruth Holland, the County Director of Special Olympics Monroe County, has observed immense growth in the community support for Special Olympics as a result of Kathy’s efforts.
“Athletes are eagerly welcomed into the large triathlon community as equals,” said Kathy.
Special Olympics athletes are more recognized and acknowledged throughout the community of Key West, allowing them the opportunity to experience a new sense of belonging and inclusion that was never before attainable. Be it on the course or in the Key West community, Kathy supports her athletes as they continue to develop their athletic and social skills.
“Kathy has changed the game for this group of athletes and for the people who have gotten to know them through the social aspects of the sport,” said Ruth.
What Kathy was able to accomplish speaks volumes about what it takes to be a Game Changer. By utilizing her passion for triathlons and combining it with her desire to help others, she was able to have a large impact on the lives of her athletes and on the community of Key West.