“By joining SOWI people can show their communities, states, our country, and the entire world that people with intellectual disabilities are equal humans.”

On this week’s “My SOWI Story,” we hear from SOWI athlete Sara Byrd of Slinger, WI!

How and when did you become involved with SOWI?
When I was a senior in High School, some of my friends from my Special Ed class told me about Special Olympics. They told me how much fun they had getting to make new friends and compete against other people with disabilities. In 2012 I decided to join the Hartford Seahawks Swim Team. I have been on this team for 6 years.

What sport(s) do you participate in and what is your favorite sport?
I enjoy playing many sports, including: soccer, track and field and swimming. I also enjoy watching football and basketball. Right now, I only participate in one sport and that is swimming.

What do you like most about being involved with SOWI?
What I love the most about SOWI is that I can show people I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I know that if I work really hard, I can achieve the goals that I set for myself. One of my goals is to compete at the Special Olympics USA Games and the World Games as a swimmer. I have really enjoyed making new friends through SOWI; every year we look forward to seeing each other at regional and state competitions.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories with SOWI.
My favorite memory from SOWI is this year’s Wisconsin Summer State Games. I swam in a team relay and two individual events, the 400 meter Freestyle and the 200 meter Freestyle. Our relay team won the bronze and I won a silver medal in the 400m and came from behind to win a gold medal in the 200m. I said to myself “I did it!” Everyone on my team was so proud of me. My coaches, my mom, my teammates and other parents were screaming at the top of their lungs, cheering me on. It was very exciting to win the race I had trained for all year long.
After receiving my medal I saw that one of my swimming competitors was sad and disappointed that she did not win the race. I went over to her and asked her if she was OK. She said she was. I told her: “Just remember the oath and as long you did your best and tried hard, you are a winner in my eyes.”

How would your life be different if you never joined SOWI?
If I hadn’t joined SOWI I would not have realized that so many people are so kind and caring toward people with disabilities. I wouldn’t have learned how to set new physical goals for myself, build a plan to achieve those goals and then see those goals come true. I would have never met so many of my friends.

Why do you think other people should get involved with SOWI?
By joining SOWI people can show their communities, states, our country, and the entire world that people with intellectual disabilities are equal humans. No matter the color of our skin, religion, cultural background, or where we come from, we all want the same thing: to be treated with respect… as equals. When people get involved with SOWI it helps those without disabilities see and listen to what we, as people with disabilities, have to say and see what we can do physically.

Anything else you would like to share?
I love getting the chance to share my story, my perspective of what it’s like to live with Asperger’s and ADHD. While I was in school, I was given the chance to speak to children in normal classrooms. It was a great experience for me and helped the other students better understand those students in the Special Ed program. Recently, my case manager at the Department of Vocational Rehab (DVR) asked me if I would be interested in setting up similar speaking engagements. This is something she and I will be working on this fall/winter.