Game Changer: Jack O’Neill
By: Jennifer Dowdy
Jack O’Neill has been a volunteer Game Changer for the past 6 months. Only 11 years old, he’s already joined the Special Olympics community as an event volunteer, teammate, fund raiser, and most importantly – a friend. He’s inspired to stay involved and when he grows up he says he “hopes to work in Special education and athletics where I can combine inclusiveness with the sports I love!”
Jack O’Neill: “I started volunteering with Special Olympics last year during the flag football season. In 5th grade, I started visiting a new classroom in our school where my mom works as an aide. My new friends had unique challenges and I became very close with all of them. One of my best friends became another boy, also named Jack. That spring I helped out a bit at his baseball Challenger games. My teacher Mr. Berman knew I loved working in that classroom and suggested the idea of Special Olympics!
This past fall, my family and I decided to volunteer at the Taunton Flag Football Qualifying Tournament. My dad and I worked the sidelines and my mom took pictures. It was there that I met the Milford Hawks flag football team! Coach Andre invited me to help out at practice and Coach Mike made the drills so much fun. I loved hanging with the team and my best memories are conversations with athletes Patrick and Brooklyn. Brooklyn and I bonded over our love of the Denver Broncos. They were always so excited to play, which made it so much fun. I joined them at the Flag Football Final State Tournament in Franklin and I was extremely proud of their hard work and dedication.
I also joined the South High bowling team as a Unified partner this winter. Even though I hadn’t bowled much, Mrs. T (Coach Debbie Tyborowski) and my teammates were awesome and supported me as I got into the swing of things: Brian keeps things funny and Chris and I share our love of Star Wars. Joe is on the quieter side, as I can be sometimes. We named ourselves the Four Jedi’s and took home bronze medals at the Auburn Qualifying Tournament. I am also doing the Revere Polar Plunge with my South High team in March!!
I love volunteering with Special Olympics! I love the inclusiveness and making new friends of all ages. I love that no matter what abilities you have, everyone can be on the same team. Everyone is there to build each other up, no matter your differences. We are ALL friends and teammates!!!”