Special Olympics Wisconsin Unified Leadership welcomed 62 new SOWI athletes as Global Messengers this January. Providing an important and complementary training to the physical at-home workouts for many Team Wisconsin athletes, this Global Messenger program helped many SOWI athletes embark on telling their own stories.
Designed for athletes to promote, educate, and inform about the Special Olympics mission through public speaking, both November and January Global Messenger cohorts organized, wrote, and practiced giving personal speeches in preparation of the USA Games this June. A second, smaller selection geared their personal speeches toward Capitol Hill Day, held in early February.
“The idea behind this program is quite simple—it is so important for our athletes to have a voice,” SOWI Vice President of Unified Leadership Jeanne Hrovat said. “While the majority this group tailored its speeches to the upcoming USA Games and Capitol Hill Day events, we hope all our Global Messengers learn ways to tell their stories and advocate for themselves in everyday life.”
The program spanned four days over a two-week period and several guest speakers provided insight on various public speaking topics. Edward Kastern, SOWI Unified Leadership Specialist, introduced the hamburger method for speech-writing and Team Wisconsin athlete-coach Travis Stuckart implemented that format via a sample speech of his own story. SOWI Athlete Input Council member Steve Woodard and former SOWI Director of Communications Tommy Jaime covered the art of small talk and speech preparation dos and don’ts. Milwaukee TMJ4 anchor and former SOWI Board of Directors Chair Vince Vitrano discussed interviewing skills, and SOWI Athlete Leadership Liaison Deb Moore-Gruenloh tied these varying speech aspects to the SOWI mission and vision.
“I have done every training offered by Special Olympics Wisconsin and every time I facilitate I feel rewarded when I’m done because I helped make a connection,” Kastern said. “I touched a life in a way that opened a door to something different—if they see an athlete like me who has a job they can do, they might try this too. It opens their mind to so many more things.”
“I hope through this training that it opens them up to take a look at their lives. Every time they tell their stories they tell it with conviction and empowerment the rest of their lives.”
Learn more about Athlete Leadership Workshops on our Inclusive Leadership page.