Ten Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes from around the state converged on a few Portage High School classrooms on Saturday, September 22, to be trained as Special Olympics Wisconsin Global Messengers.
Every SOWI athlete has a compelling story to tell. It’s important that people who have been touched by Special Olympics Wisconsin’s programs tell stories to the world of the impact Special Olympics has made on their lives and make a case for the power of the Inclusion Revolution.
The ten athletes who participated in the workshop learned tips and tricks on public speaking, storytelling and advocacy from SOWI staff, including its first-ever athlete employee, Steve Woodard.
Some of the athletes in attendance were, like Woodard, recent USA Games participants.
Morgan Higgins of Dodge County Special Olympics was one of the athletes at the workshop who had the time of his life this summer in Seattle. He hopes to use some of the things he learned at the workshop about telling his story to inspire people.
“I’d like to get other people involved in Special Olympics and help get people with disabilities to know they can accomplish anything they put their minds to,” Higgins said.
Higgins has been a SOWI athlete for 14 years but competed in his first USA Games this year, bringing home a gold and a bronze in bocce. He believes his experience in Seattle will help him make a strong case for what Special Olympics can offer.
“When I first got there (Seattle) I started crying because I already felt like I won a national championship. It was a dream come true,” Higgins said.
Higgins, who works and lives on his own, is also eager to advocate for Special Olympics as a contributing factor to independence and self-sufficiency.
For Higgins and other newly appointed Global Messengers, this will be a new role as an advocate and spokesperson for Special Olympics Wisconsin.
But for athlete Ed Kastern of Oshkosh, the training will help him to improve on what he is already doing. Since April of this year, Kastern has been hosting his own public access television program called Making It Happen. He hopes becoming a Global Messenger will help him become a better advocate for Special Olympics and individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“I want to reach as many people as I can to spread the mission of Special Olympics and my story,” Kastern said.
Kastern, who has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 30 years, has a powerful story too. Kastern has Cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. But over the last few years, he’s been working every day to walk just a little bit with the hope that he can eventually primarily walk.
He’s now at almost 1,400 consecutive days of walking with a goal of 2,000 days in a row. He credits Special Olympics as a source of motivation.
“Special Olympics gives me hope. Without it I don’t know where I’d be today,” Kastern said. “I think about the (Athlete) Oath every day when I’m trying to walk.”
Kastern partnered with SOWI athlete leader Zachary Reetz this summer on his program to discuss Special Olympics and Reetz’s story of surviving and thriving with meningitis. Reetz became a Global Messenger himself in April 2017.
The segments serve as true testaments to what athletes can do on their own to advocate for individuals with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics.
Special Olympics Wisconsin is excited to add Higgins, Kastern and the rest of this new class of Global Messengers to its stable of spokespeople who can powerfully communicate the importance of the Inclusion Revolution.