“It teaches other people that people with disabilities can do things.”

This week we hear from Jarod Falk of Oshkosh! Jarod was a member of Team Wisconsin for the 2018 USA Games, where he won a gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle swim.

How and when did you become involved with SOWI? 

I started swimming with the swim team when I was 12 years old.  

What sport(s) do you participate in and what is your favorite sport? 

Swimming and Bowling. Swimming is my favorite.  

What do you like the most about being involved with SOWI? 

It helped me bond with other team members, and it helped me get ready for high school swim. It helps me stay healthy. My coaches are great. I get lots of opportunities and I get to be a leader, which I like to do.  

Tell us about one of your favorite memories with SOWI. 

I remember getting picked to go to State my first year. I didn’t think I’d get picked because it was my first year, but I did. I was so proud of myself! Then I went to State and I got a Bronze medal, and I was excited. My family was so proud of me! 

How would your life be different if you never joined SOWI? 

I would not be able to do high school swim. I probably wouldn’t have broken out of my shell naturally. I probably wouldn’t be as healthy.  

Why do you think other people should get involved with SOWI? 

I think it would be good for them to know people with disabilities. It teaches other people that people with disabilities can do things. 

An update from Jarod’s mother, Wendy Falk:  

Jarod finished this swim season at State, and these are his last SOWI races. He has been accepted as a swim team member for UW-Oshkosh and will be competing in the NCAA starting in the fall as he pursues a degree in Human Resources Management. But it was Jarod’s training with Coach Debbie and the Titans at UWOshkosh (our assistant coaching staff) that helped UWOshkosh Coach Chris Culp see Jarod’s work ethic and potential. Knowing Jarod intended to pursue a university education, Culp let Jarod know the door was open to consider UWOshkosh Swim Team.  

Jarod (middle), with Coach Culp (left) and Coach Debbie, after learning he was invited to join the UW-Oshkosh Swim Team

It is Jarod’s time with SOWI that made it possible for him to reach levels where swimming at a university level would even be imaginable. He learned so much about leadership, work ethic, sportsmanship, technique, and accepting direction. Jarod had wonderful coaching from Debbie Hoff & Jim Hernday (the Coach and assistant coach), and as the Titans help coach our Special Olympics team, Jarod is joining a group he is familiar with and that also knows him. In many ways, it’s like coming home.  

The road Jarod traveled with Special Olympics shaped his future in ways we never thought we could imagine. And, since Jarod’s younger sister, Natalie, is also a Special Olympics Athlete, his achievements and opportunities with Special Olympics helped set the example for her as to what was possible. Additionally, Jarod’s experience helped people see that Special Olympics is REAL sports, and how capable people with disabilities are. 

Our family’s journey with Special Olympics continues. Natalie is an athlete, our daughter, Maria, volunteers, and Jarod hopes someday to help coach. The road Special Olympics set Jarod on opened a world of opportunity and possibility. We will always be grateful.