Hearing the mission of inclusion through the voice and perspective of a Special Olympics athlete is the best way to fully understand the depth of the Special Olympics movement.
This week, three athlete leaders, James Day Keith, Tyler Lagasse and Lumene Montissol from Special Olympics Massachusetts spoke in front of Special Olympics CEOs from across the country at the US CEO Meeting which took place in Boston this year.
The Athlete Leadership program at Special Olympics Massachusetts provides training and support for athletes who desire to expand their participation in Special Olympics, both on and off the competition field. Athletes that take part in the trainings are given tools to share their experiences, document stories in the community and encourage others to be their best selves.
“Each of the athletes spoke to the importance of Special Olympics in their lives and how they have accomplished so much more because of what Special Olympics taught them,” Special Olympics Massachusetts President and CEO, Mary Beth McMahon said. “They also encouraged the leaders in this movement to keep pushing the boundaries so more and more athletes could benefit from the Special Olympics experience.”
Tyler, who is a global messenger, author and has even given a TED Talk about Autism, kicked off the speeches on Wednesday during a lunch sponsored by School Health at the Hyatt Regency in Boston. He shared the story of his journey and the opportunities that he has had through his involvement with Special Olympics. His favorite part was handing out his business cards to everyone at his table.
“I especially was excited to hand out my card to (Dave Dorn) the CEO from SO Minnesota,” Tyler said. “We were talking about hockey and Charlie Coyle who played for both the Wild and the Bruins!”
James presented next on Wednesday evening at the CEO Support Services Reception and Dinner at Fenway Park, where Years of Service Awards and other recognitions took place. In his keynote speech, James spoke mostly of his role in the new movie, Champions where he starred alongside Woody Harrelson as well as many other Special Olympics athletes. James loved sharing his experiences, but was also inspired by everyone else recognized throughout the night.
“My favorite part of attending the meeting was meeting everyone from all over the country,” James said. “And getting to see the Red Sox trophy and the golden gloves. And the food was delicious!”
On Thursday, Lumene got to add her insight at Thursday’s lunch. She discussed her accolades earned at USA Games in 2022, and what being a champion means to her.
“Speaking in front of all the Special Olympics CEOs from different states was one of the most awesome moments that I have ever had,” Lumene said.
She enjoyed herself so much that she even stuck around for the rest of the afternoon to learn more about the ins and outs of Special Olympics. Bonding with Jamie Heckerman, the CEO of SO Arizona about wearing the same KEEN sandals was one of the highlights of Lumene’s day.
“I am a sap for this,” Mary Beth McMahon added. “I loved watching our athletes speak to and inspire my colleagues across the US.”