2018 USA Games Game Changers
Bobby Striggow - Minnesota
Nominated by Orono High School teacher Michelle Swenson, Bobby is a mentor for a Special Olympics athlete and the coach of a Unified flag football team in Long Lake, MN. He is also a member of the Unified basketball team selected to compete at the 2018 USA Games in July.
amanda geno - missouri
As a law enforcement officer with the Lee’s Summit Missouri Police Department, Amanda plays a big role in the yearly Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Missouri. In addition, she is a Unified partner in floor hockey, bowling and softball with Special Olympic athlete Brittany Selken, and is the Chair for the Kansas City Metro Polar Plunge which raises about $300,000 each year
Lee-Davis High School - Virginia
Nominated by teacher Sara Salvato, Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, VA goes above and beyond to make sure students with intellectual disabilities are not only included, but welcomed. With their Functional Academics and Champions Together programs, students with intellectual disabilities have equal opportunitities both on the field and in the classroom.
stacy gillett - washington
Growing up with a younger sister who has Down Syndrome and Autism, Stacy noticed the lack of programs and educational opportunities available to people with intellectual disabilities and began to challenge the status quo and push for improvements. Three decades later, as the Executive Director of The Arc of King County, her work is dedicated to serving all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across their lifespan.
tim hughes - idaho
At a dance held in conjunction with the State games, Tim Hughes vowed to try to coach every person in attendance if he could. For the last seven years, he has worked with Special Olympics Idaho and has coached floor hockey, soccer, swimming, track, and bowling. He is dedicated to healthy lifestyles, encouraging athletes to try new sports, as well as building a community where different abilities belong and are celebrated.
The Coca-Cola Company - georgia
The Coca-Cola Company has impacted Special Olympics for nearly 50 years and has provided more than $190 million in support of its programs. As a partner of the 2018 USA Games, they will continue their commitment to inclusion by hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities to be part of their activation team during the USA Games.
PAstor Peggy Roy - Florida
Nominated by Susan Carleton, the mother of two children with autism, Pastor Peggy Roy started a program called “The Hangout” as a monthly event for people with intellectual disabilities. The purpose was to create a safe space for them as well as to allow parents and caregivers a much deserved break. As part of her loving and accepting nature, both of Susan's children have benefited from the warm, tolerant and inclusive environment that Pastor Peggy has created.
Lauren petrick - Florida
Nominated by her cousin, Morgan, Lauren Petrick started her own company, a non-profit foundation, called Learning Enriched Athletic Program or LEAP. There, she specializes in working with aspiring gymnasts who have intellectual disabilities and has four athletes who have qualified to compete at the 2018 USA Games in July as part of Special Olympics Florida.
Read her Story →
AUDREY VERREt - Missouri
Verret has been involved with Special Olympics since she was a college student and has continued to stay involved with local programs as she has moved around the country. In Missouri, she runs events, sits on committees, mentors an athlete, actively solicits support from other community members and her passion for Special Olympics inspired her new company to become financially involved.
Jessica minard - Ohio
Jessica works as a a Special Education teacher in Sylvania, Ohio and spends time every summer working with young people with disabilities at a camp. In addition, she's also been a Special Olympics basketball coach and has implemented a program called Project UNIFY in the Sylvania School System. The program has been so successful and encouraging that she has been approached by other school districts for guidance in developing their own program.
Macho Madness - South Dakota
With a developmental disorder called Smith Magenis Syndrome, Kaylor McDaniel has a symptom that causes her to be sleepy during the day and awake at night. One day, her father brought her to his 5:00am workout class and the group's overwhelming acceptance and inclusion of her into their family brought him to tears.
Will Larson - Minnesota
As a senior in high school, Will's participation in the Special Olympics movement runs deep. He's not only a partner in Unified bowling, flag football and basketball, but he is also the President of the Student Board of Directors for Special Olympics Minnesota, where he is currently working on a project to help bring the Unified club and sports into more schools around the state.
Anna Angrisano - Washington
Anna is developmentally delayed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. She has been a page assistant at the Lake Hills Library for over 10 years and has been outperforming her assigned duties from the very beginning. Her passion has pushed her into becoming an outspoken advocate to help ensure that King Country Libraries are being run in a way that is sensitive and inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.
Mary Ward Lupinacci - Washington
Mary is a teacher, counselor and yoga instructor in Spokane, WA. She created a program called Be Still Kids where she teaches yoga and mindfulness to children with intellectual disabilities. Her practice helps children learn how to self-regulate and develop their identities. She travels around the state and country to work with school districts and teachers to educate and share her knowledge.
Amanda mcmahon - Washington
As a PhD student at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, Amanda is using virtual reality technology to increase motivation for exercise. She has found that the technology has also helped to create greater awareness of nutritional needs and increased mindfulness which contributes to an overall improvement of self-regulation. Her findings will help to benefit and improve the overall quality life of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Steve Valach - Washington
As the head football coach of Liberty High School, Coach Valach welcomed Kevin McCarthy, a student with Down syndrome to be the manager. He encouraged his team to embrace their roles as teachers and peer mentors and to interact with Kevin. They treat him like a regular guy and have helped shape how he sees himself in the world. He has gained confidence in public speaking, articulating his ideas because of these positive interactions.
Victoria and eugenia fantoni - Washington
At just eight and 10 years old, these sisters have welcomed their classmate, Kate, who has Down syndrome, with open arms. They are attached at the hip and find inclusive activities to do together, like puzzles, playing games and watching movies. Victoria and Kate even celebrate their birthdays together, which are one day apart. The girls are patient, accommodating, and always willing to step up to volunteer or be Kate's partner.
nihan uslu - southern california
After 5 years of being a sedentary, uninvolved young adult, Nihan was encouraged to re-engage in her community through physical activity. With the help of her yoga instructor, Ms. Gigi, she's stronger, healthier and more confident. With that transformation, she's now an assistant at the yoga studio and encourages new students to achieve their fitness goals the way that she did. She's also enrolled in horticultural school and proves what it means to be a role model for young adults with special needs in more ways than one.
Bill Herman - Washington
After a business trip to South Africa where he filmed an ad highlighting how Microsoft's Cloud technology empowers Special Olympics to manage data for their 4.9 million athletes, Bill returned home to Seattle, eager and inspired to get involved with Special Olympics Washington (SOWA). When he found out that SOWA didn't have a bocce league, he created his own. Two of the athletes he coaches will be competing at the 2018 USA Games where he will also be the volunteer manager at the bocce competitions throughout the week.