12 Days of Athletes

December 14, 2018 Blog, Featured

This holiday season, we’re taking “12 Days of Athletes” to look back on some of the most inspiring athlete stories we covered in 2018.



On the first Day of Athletes…

In the last few years, Christopher Weems of Wausau has lost 80 pounds! Through a commitment to being active and some tips he picked up from our health programming, Weems feels like a new man. His coach calls him the Energizer Bunny. More importantly, he’s much less susceptible to asthma attacks now.

Weems believes anybody who wants to lose weight and feel better can do it if they put their mind to it. “It’s gonna take time. But if it’s a goal of yours and you stay committed and follow through, you can do it,” Weems said.

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On the second Day of Athletes…

This summer, Kim Raatz of Greendale won a gold and silver medal in swimming at the USA Games in Seattle. Her mother, Sue, wrote about Kim’s life and how Special Olympics helped her overcome obstacles and become an accomplished swimmer, even making her high school swim team.

Sue also believes Special Olympics has helped instill sportsmanship and respect in Kim. “That simple act of kindness was a result of the many years competing in Special Olympics, where acknowledging teammates and opponents is a part of what makes it so special,” Sue wrote.

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On the third Day of Athletes…

On the third Day of Athletes, we’re looking back at the beautiful video about Special Olympics snowboarder extraordinaire Daina Shilts of Neillsville and her first visit to a Unified Champion School. The students of Columbus High School helped teach Daina what the Inclusion Revolution was all about for the young people across the country who are kick-starting the Unified Generation.

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On the fourth Day of Athletes…

In April 2018, 12-year-old Ethan’s first Indoor Sports Tournament brought his mom to tears because of the ways his teammates, opponents and referees all embraced him and even played “I got your nose” with him on the court. The weekend was such an overwhelming experience for Ethan’s mom, Amanda, she emailed Special Olympics Wisconsin staff as soon as the weekend concluded to share Ethan’s story that touched so many lives during the tournament.

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On the fifth Day of Athletes…

While the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games were special for all 54 athletes and Unified partners of Team Wisconsin, they were a little extra special for Rachel and Jonathan Frank of Glendale. The married couple got to make their USA Games debut this summer together when they both competed for Team Wisconsin in bocce. They even teamed up for a memorable silver-medal run together in team competition!

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On the sixth Day of Athletes…

Alison Mushett anchored her relay swim team to a dramatic gold medal victory at the 2018 Summer Games, thanks in part to Special Olympics’ Opening Eyes program. She debuted her new prescription goggles, which helped her see better under water, take her swimming to the next level and bring her team the gold!

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On the seventh Day of Athletes…

Colton Lohrenz and Tyler Wigington, two of our long-distance running superstars enjoyed a rather unique running experience this year. In October they traveled 4,000 miles to Portugal to compete in the 2018 INAS Half Marathon World Championships!

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On the eighth Day of Athletes…

Daniel Janulewicz and Dean Garfoot are friends, teammates for West Madison Special Olympics, and roommates. This year, they also became workout partners and USA Games teammates. As members of Team Wisconsin’s Unified Soccer squad, they worked together and pushed each other to get in shape for Seattle. Their hard work paid off too. They helped their Unified Soccer team bring home the gold!

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On the ninth Day of Athletes…

Inspired by his summers at Lions Camp and motivated by the desire to give back to the community, athlete PJ Taylor and his wife Angie started their own inclusive Lions Club chapter. Their Winners Circle Lions Club is composed primarily of Special Olympics athletes and they volunteer for various events in the community year-round. They even help out with Special Olympics Wisconsin events like the Polar Plunge!

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On the tenth Day of Athletes…

Athlete Martha Hill was selected as one of just 12 athletes from around the country to serve on the USA Athlete Input Council, where she will be able to give input on the future of Special Olympics in the US.

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On the eleventh Day of Athletes…

Athlete and author Marquis Garner of Milwaukee gave a beautiful and rousing speech at the Champions Together Breakfast in October, bringing everyone in attendance to their feet for a standing ovation.


On the twelfth Day of Athletes…

Longtime athlete and Special Olympics legend Cindy Bentley sat down to discuss her life, her legacy, and the impact Special Olympics has had on her in nearly 50 years of involvement.


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