Author: Drew Frey
Carl Hanson has been competing with Special Olympics Massachusetts for 20 years and he continues to bring overflowing enthusiasm to every event. He remembers back in 2011 discovering Special Olympics through his friends and then signing up for events because his parents encouraged him to challenge himself. Now Carl participates in Special Olympics competitions year-round, including bocce, soccer, bowling, volleyball, and track and field. Competing with the Greater Springfield teams, Carl learned to celebrate successes and overcome obstacles through sports.
One of Carl's proudest moments came at the Winter Games tournament in March of 2019. He arrived at the bowling alley and could not believe how many competitors surrounded him. Carl relied on his weeks of training with his coaches and after three matches, he ended up getting first place! When the officials brought over the gold medal and put it around his neck, Carl was filled with joy that all of his hard work had paid off.
However, Carl said that just after the tournament finished, he received the news that future events would need to be paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was difficult for Carl to hear that the practices and events that provided him so much happiness would be stopped for the time being. Practices and events were where he socialized with many of his closest friends and it felt like that was suddenly gone. It was hard to no longer be able to see his friends and meet new friends at practice, but then Carl discovered Athlete Chats.
Carl has attended the Athlete Chats since they started last year. Every Friday at 3pm, he and fellow athletes, volunteers, and special guests meet on Zoom. Anyone can join an Athlete Chat and athletes from other states often join as well. Each week people connect with one another, share how their week is going, and play fun games. Talking about his experience on the Athlete Chats, Carl said, ''I love the Athlete Chats and I've met people from all the way in Minnesota!" The Athlete Chats initially provided Carl a fun way to connect with his friends and meet new people when he couldn't meet them in person. Now with in-person practices and events resuming, Carl still attends the weekly Athlete Chats to stay close with all of his friends!
Carl is excited that events have started again, and he most recently competed at the Westfield Bocce Tournament. Bocce is Carl's favorite sport and he and his teammate won a silver medal! His favorite part of the tournament was being able to play with his best friends and having it feel just ''like the old days again." As bocce season comes to a close, Carl is excited to start training for soccer and to move to a new home in Springfield. Carl can't wait to share his passion for Special Olympics with his soon-to-be housemates!
Great job, Carl! Your love of Special Olympics is awesome to see and we wish you luck in the upcoming soccer season!