Special Olympics USA 2018 will be held in Seattle this year, July 1-7. It’s a very big deal for me and some people I know. Not only is it a great honor to be hosting this national competition, but some of the Seattle Park Sharks will be participating.
Seattle Park Sharks are participants in Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation specialized athletic programs. Two adults and one Little Shark — Andrea Ledesma, Frankie Hogan and Brian Liang will all be competing in track-and-field events.
This competition is important to me because it represents all the states in the United States and lets the world see them compete.
I am a Special Olympics athlete. My Real Change picture shows me wearing the medals I won in state competition. That doesn’t mean I’m in the national competition; after you win gold in a state competition, your name is put into a drawing, and only those whose names are drawn compete in the nationals.
I was a state champion in softball, basketball and track and field. I also participate in Special Olympics bowling, and I’ve been doing Special Olympics for the past four, maybe five years.
Even though I won’t be competing, I plan to go to the opening ceremony. I’d actually like to make a speech there, about how important everyone’s work is. If it weren’t for truckers, we wouldn’t have food in the grocery stores. If it weren’t for the trains and ships, we wouldn’t have clothes to wear or stuff to build houses with.
Everybody’s important — that’s one thing I’ve learned from Special Olympics. Another thing I’ve learned is how to be better at winning and losing: I’m a very competitive person. If I don’t win, I still give it my best.
If I win, I try not to gloat like a lot of people do. I didn’t use to shake my opponents’ hands, but now I do.
Special Olympics is something that shows people we’re no different from them.
Special Olympics is something that shows people we’re no different from them. We may have special needs, but we can use a chance to show we can do whatever it takes. We just need a chance to show that we can do whatever it takes. Some people look down on us, but as a Special Olympian, as a special person, I don’t look at it that way.
One way to acknowledge that everyone is important is to come out to the Special Olympics. It won’t cost you anything—just your time and attention.
If you see me there, say hello. I might want to shake your hand too.
Harlan Wood is a Real Change vendor and decorated athlete.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full June 27 - July 3 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.