This week we hear from athlete Ryan Dushek from Milwaukee who shares all the ways SOWI has helped him become more courageous!

How and when did you become involved with SOWI?
I was 8 years old when my mom became a class A volunteer so she could help out our friends who were coaches for the 8-05 Wauwatosa Agency. My friend, Jacob, played bocce and I went with my mom to watch. I was no longer playing soccer for my grade school but wanted to play sports. I felt like I was not good for any other sport but saw that in Special Olympics, you could play and everyone cheered you on. My mom told me that I could try a bunch of different things so I asked her if I could be an athlete too. It took till I was 9 but then I started with swimming.

What sport(s) do you participate in and what is your favorite sport?
Aquatics, bowling, volleyball (my favorite sport) and basketball.

What do you like most about being involved with SOWI?
I like that I get to meet so many people and each one is unique. We all have our own story to tell and during practices and  competitions, we share those stories and no one judges you because your story may not be the “normal.”

Tell us about one of your favorite memories with SOWI.
It was 2016 and I was at Wick field playing baseball. This was the first time I ever really played baseball or on a baseball team. I was not a very good player. I had been striking out all game but then I got a home run and every one stood and cheered me on!

How would your life be different if you never joined SOWI?
I never would have had the confidence to join my high school swim team. I had been swimming for several years with 8-05 and 8-02 when I entered my freshman year. I wanted to try out. My mom warned my that it would be a lot tougher than Special Olympics, but I wanted to try. Everyone who got to tryout was put on the team as we only had 5 people. We took last place in our city conferences. I kept swimming with 8-02 and kept improving. The coach made me captain because I had the confidence to lead the team all due to my years with SO. Finally my senior year, my high school team took 3rd place out of 10 teams. Special Olympics gave me leadership skills and taught me how to motivate others to keep trying their hardest.
This past summer, I became a life guard for the Milwaukee County Parks. I would never have done these things without SOWI.

Why do you think other people should get involved with SOWI?
It gives people opportunities to shine and show their skills. It doesn’t matter what we look like or where we come from. Without SOWI these people may never learn different skills or have others see them as someone besides a special needs person. SOWI allows people to shine!