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Special Olympics Oregon

by David Gillaspie

originally posted on

During a recent twenty-four hours, ESPN Sports Radio 1080 The Fan focused on Oregon Special Olympics. The Primetime team of Isaac and Big Suke broadcasted a radiothon of ‘Athletes For Athletes.’ 

How big are the Special Olympics and Special Olympics Oregon?

The first Special Olympics Games were held in Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1968. They drew over a thousand athletes from America and Canada.

Currently, Special Olympics Oregon serves ‘close to 8,000’ athletes, and growing, out of 70,000 people with intellectual disabilities.

Sports have a way of changing numbers.

For every expert who advises a parent to give up on their special needs child, there’s a mom and dad who take the opposite track. Instead of finding a place to send their kid so they can have the freedom to live an ordinary life, some parents choose to bring their kids home for an extraordinary life.

Doctors and therapists make mistakes like the rest of us.

The early medical community guessed that a large person’s heart would simply give out under too much exertion. The medical community was wrong. Imagine what basketball would be today if tall people followed doctor’s health advice and chose sedentary lives out of fear.

The same wrong thinking once sent those with intellectual disabilities to a home, or institute, to live their lives in a gray fog of acceptance. Most parents who heard their child would live in a vegetative state, or never advance past the development stage of a two year old, didn’t question the opinion.

The few who wanted something better blazed the trail for Special Olympics. Others followed and moved the numbers.

Exercise is a game changer across the board. Anyone who can move should make the effort. Better balance, circulation, and increased strength are goals we all strive for, but without a proper context, it’s hard to follow through on an exercise program.

Enter sports.

Now it’s not just movement for the sake of movement. Now it’s comparative movement and you’re matched with others doing the same thing. Walking on a treadmill is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. Ask anyone with a treadmill in their garage and they can tell you how easy it is. Then ask how it works as a convenient clothes hanger.

Walking with someone, or a group, with the goal of reaching the finish line first, adds competition. In its pure form, competition rewards all participants. Gracious winners give thanks to those who pushed them hardest.

Movement with context eliminates the drudgery of repetition, the boredom of watching the clock until you’ve done half an hour. Movement with sports reduces fatigue levels because of the changed focus and builds a community between competitors and their coaches.

Special Olympics, and Special Olympics Oregon, are that community. They are who Isaac and Big Suke spoke to during the recent radiothon on 1080 The Fan.     

Today we understand the benefits of sport better than ever. Athletes of all stripes line up to compete. Sports fans at all levels gather to cheer. It is one of the strongest draws across the country. You can tell the importance of Special Olympics Oregon by the individuals and sponsors involved.

Companies sponsoring the Athletes For Athletes 24 hour radiothon on 1080 The Fan include Papa John’s Pizza, Bridgetown Physical Therapy, Hooters Restaurants, Spa Willamina,  Key Laser Asthetic Medicine, Rock Bottom Brewery, Drift Creek Outdoors, and Cinetopia among others.

Give them a shout out the next time you visit.

The Board of Directors for Special Olympics Oregon are an All-Star team that begins with Kerry Tymchuk from the Oregon Historical Society, Bob Jesenik from Aequitas Capital Management, Rosemary St. Clair from Nike, former Governor Victor Atiyeh,  Irene M.  Barhyte from OHSU, Chris Bathurst from Fred Meyer Inc., Tom Fletcher from the Trailblazers, Michael Redding, Ed.D. from UO, Pat Reser from the Reser Family Foundation as well as a host of others forming a line-up of Who’s Who in Oregon.

These are the people of Oregon making time for other Oregonians, athletes one and all.

When you tune your radio to 1080 The Fan you expect informed sports talk along with the sort of insider anecdotes you don’t hear on television. You might hear Isaac and Big Suke muse on lessons the modern world provides boys on their journey to manhood. You may hear a caller recommend the sport of wrestling as the sure path to responsible adulthood.

During the past 24 hours you heard something else.

You head two men exemplify the best of sports, the inclusiveness, the commraderie, and the achievement available to all. Most of all you heard Isaac Ropp and Jason Scukanek reach out in genuine sportsmanship, the ideal of all sports and all athletes.

It’s what you hope to hear more often. Way to make a difference, guys; way to raise the bar; way to go.

About David Gillaspie

Since I'm from Oregon I know all about wood; It's like writing a blog. For example I once made a four poster bed from rough cut lumber. It broke the first time I laid down. Now it's four foot stools. Every blog post on comes from the same process. Be a good surfer and sign up. You might be sorry, but not that much. Talk soon, David

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