This March, Patricia Pipkorn and her daughter Joanna Stein of Green Bay will be taking a trip unlike one they’ve ever gone on. They’ll be flying to Abu Dhabi to participate in the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. The mother-daughter duo will be competing together in Unified bowling.
Joanna has been a Special Olympics athlete since 1996 but this will be her first competition at the national or international level. In fact, this will be her first trip outside of the United States. “I am really excited about Joanna experiencing an opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi. I recognized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was ecstatic, especially for Joanna,” Pipkorn said. “She had the biggest smile I have ever seen!”
The Special Olympics World Games occurs every four years and this will be the first time it will be held in the Middle East North Africa region. Over 7,500 athletes, from more than 170 countries will compete in 24 different sports. The games will be the largest humanitarian sporting even in all of 2019.
“I feel excited and nervous at the same time. I am excited to meet a lot of new athletes from other countries, but nervous to travel to a brand new country,” Stein said. “The World Games is going to be electric.”
Although Stein will be halfway across the world in an unfamiliar place, one thing she can count on is Special Olympics’ signature atmosphere and energy that athletes and fans can count on at all Special Olympics events. “I like Special Olympics because everyone with a disability has an opportunity to take part in something. I enjoy being with friends as well as making new ones,” Stein said. “All of the athletes immediately become like a family.”
Pipkorn and Stein have always held a very strong bond. They are both very competitive and it has helped them work more as a Unified team. As the two prepare to compete in Abu Dhabi, they always remind each other to just have fun bowling and not worry about the scores; that they are going there to have the experience of a lifetime.
Over the years, Pipkorn has been involved with Special Olympics in more ways than just as Joanna’s Unified partner. She has been a volunteer and coach for many years. She’s also an accomplished bowler with a personal best of 269. She started bowling when she was young and picking it back up with Joanna and Special Olympics became and important way for them to bond.
In addition to bowling, Stein competes in basketball, soccer and softball. She’s proud of her teams’ accomplishments in 2018. At the 2018 State Games, her team earned a silver in softball and a bronze in soccer. While her competitive spirit is a big part of her, she knows that Special Olympics is ultimately about so much more than where you stand on the podium. “Special Olympics has changed my life for the better. It’s taught me to accept myself for who I am, to accept disabilities and be around people with them and do things with them,” Stein said. “We all take love and pride in what we do.”