Special Olympics In Brevard Empowers Athletes To Achieve Their Fullest Potential
By Maria Sonnenberg // December 30, 2015
CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION
ABOVE VIDEO: The Special Olympics program empowers athletes to achieve their fullest potential, both in sports and in life. While sports are pivotal to the mission of Special Olympics, they are only part of the picture.
The power of sports – the confidence-building, the camaraderie and the physical fitness opportunities – is available to individuals with intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics, which in Brevard County boasts of more than 350 registered athletes as young as eight years of age.
Special Olympics benefits these individuals physically, mentally, socially and spiritually and our community is much better for it, every day of the year.
“People get the impression that we’re an occasional cyclical thing like the Olympics, but what is really wonderful about Special Olympics is that it’s a year-round training and competition,” said Brevard Special Olympics director Deb Spence.
“We have 12 different sports throughout the year.”
Some athletes participate in multiple sports. D.J. Madden, for example, is busy every month of the year with aquatics, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and softball.
Bowling, softball, basketball, equestrian, track and field, volleyball, golf, aquatics, surfing, stand-up paddleboard, soccer and cheerleading are Special Olympics sports in Brevard, but they are not the entirety of the program.
To further break down barriers, Special Olympics’ Project Unify partners athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on teams for training and competitions.
Although Special Olympics is geared toward athletes that are eight years and older, the Young Athletes Program focuses on students ages two to seven with intellectual and developmental disabilities, focusing on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination.
ALL VOLUNTEER GROUP
The organization empowers athletes to achieve their fullest potential, both in sports and in life. While sports are pivotal to the mission of Special Olympics, they are only part of the picture.
“We’re more than sports,” said Spence.
“We’re about friendship and creating a social network for athletes and parents.”
The 100 percent-volunteer organization partners with Brevard Parks and Recreation for free practice locations. Donations from the community help purchase the equipment and uniforms for the athletes.
“Neither athletes nor parents are charged a fee,” said Spence. “Brevard County is 100 percent volunteer with no paid staff.”
The organization is inclusive, with activities for all ability levels, from the highly functioning to the severely challenged. The only criteria for participation is an intellectual disability and a minimum age of eight.
Because there is no upper age limit, some athletes continue with Special Olympics into their 40s and more. Although events are modified so more athletes can participate, Special Olympics follows Florida high school rules for the particular sports.
DO YOUR BEST
Modeled after the Olympic Games, competition culminates in State Games that feature the lighting of the Special Olympics’ Flame of Hope.
Brevard’s athletes do extremely well in Special Olympics competitions, says Spence.
“Our athletes win Gold, Silver and Bronze in every sport,” said Spence.
“We push for them to do their personal best.”
ABOUT THE 2015 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS
Recognizing Outstanding Individuals & Organizations Who Dedicate Their Time, Talent and Treasure
The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarians include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities.
The Central Florida Humanitarian honorees will be recognized during a Gala event on Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.
The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created six years ago by Maverick Multimedia, publisher of Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and Space Coast Daily, to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their time, talent or treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
TIME: In this category consider candidates who have selflessly and consistently devoted their time as volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes, in activities for the less fortunate and as organizers, administrators or operatives in the many other altruistic endeavors in our community.
TALENT: In this category give consideration to those who have volunteered their special talents and expertise to address specific circumstances in which the lives of those in need are improved.
TREASURE: The humanitarians in this category will include those who have generously shared their monetary good fortune and/or volunteered their time and efforts in fund raising for the advancement of a philanthropic cause.
All 2015 honorees will be featured in the Oct/Nov 2015 edition of Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and SpaceCoastDaily.com.
The first Gala was held in 2010 and is produced by Brevard Productions.
ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS SELECTED TO BE HONORED INCLUDE:
• Brevard Family Partnership
• Brevard Neighborhood Coalition
• Brevard Special Olympics – Debbie Spence
• Lila Buescher
• Canine Companions for Independence
• Childrens Hunger Project
• Circles of Care
• Ginger Davis
• Cove Merchants Association
• Dr. Brian Dowdell
• Early Learning Coalition of Brevard
• Betsy Farmer
• Darcia Jones-Francey
• Harris Corp. Foundation
• Malak Hammad
• John & Cynthia Handley
• John Harper
• Mike & Stephanie Haridopolos
• Sheriff Wayne Ivey
• Robert Jordan
• Dr. John Lovejoy Jr. & Dr. John Lovejoy III
• Victor Luebker
• Rita Pritchett
• David Schmitt
• Oscar & Turney Sieveking
• The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement honoree is Dr. Anthony Catanese.
HONORING SELFLESS VOLUNTEERISM
As always, the Central Florida Humanitarian committee will also honor hospital and hospice volunteers from Health First Hospice, the Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care at Wasdin Woods, VITAS, Hospice of St. Francis, Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital, Health First Viera Hospital, Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center, Health First Palm Bay Hospital, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Melbourne, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Rockledge, the VA Clinic in Viera, and Sebastian River Medical Center.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“For the sixth consecutive year, we will once again produce the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala on the first Thursday of November. This year, more than 42 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala.”
The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will be part of Space Coast Medicine Week, a comprehensive series of health and educational events produced by Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and Space Coast Daily.
JOIN US FOR AN INSPIRATIONAL EVENING
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by M.H. Williams Construction, Parrish Medical Center, SOAR, Brighthouse Networks, Wuesthoff Health System, First Choice Medical Group, Clear Choice Health Care, Florida Pain Institute, Brevard Geriatrics, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Dr. Mark Pinsky, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and SpaceCoastDaily.com. Each honoree or organization will be presented the Central Florida Humanitarian Crystal Globe.
“We would like to thank our long list of sponsors who support the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards and who make this wonderful event possible,” said Giles Malone, a partner with Maverick Multimedia and Brevard Productions, who annually produce all the events of Space Coast Medicine Week.
COMPELLING MULTIMEDIA TRIBUTE VIDEOS & STORIES
Stay tuned to SpaceCoastDaily.com and Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine for exclusive and comprehensive multimedia coverage of each honoree as we present their compelling stories.
“Please join us on Thursday, Nov. 5 to celebrate and be inspired by these incredible individuals and groups,” said Maverick Multimedia President & Publisher Tom Palermo.
“In the meantime, please click the link below that showcases the distinguished Central Florida Humanitarian Alumni.”
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN ALUMNI
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-323-4460 or 321-615-8111, or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS
ABOVE MAP: The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will take place Thursday, Nov. 4 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, located at 200 Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.