Wednesday, Apollo Ohno, and our presentation – North Carolina

Joseph: The rush of being on stage today for our presentation was just so awesome. I messed up a couple of times but I got at the meaning of our topic. If I could pause the world and show people that if you get involved there are a lot of things you could do instead of being out on the street trying to found out what you’re going to do after high school. Here I’m learning new things everyday and I just can’t wait to get home so I can share some of these ideas with others in our community. The next time somebody asked why I got involved I’m going to say there was a fire in my heart and it was reaching a fever point (meaning that I was bit by the Special Olympic bug). And ever since I’ve stayed with Special Olympics I’ve realized that life is so much more than money and stylish cloths. You can do so much in this world, it’s just so big!!!!!!!!!!


Sarah:   Wednesday we were at the Hilton Hotel for a breakfast session and we were talking about youth empowerment. One highlight of that session for me was getting to sit beside Eddie Barbanell. I also liked how they didn’t allow for chaperones to come except for those who need translation because I felt it allows for the athletes and partners to be freer in talking about things together. Apollo Uno was also one of the speakers this morning and he had a good message. I really liked how he was talking about when he was competing when he was younger all it was about was going for the gold and through time he realized it wasn’t as important. And as he got involved in Special Olympics he could see that it had nothing really to do with what place you got, it is all about the experience and joy you get from it. The Red Laces Campaign presentation was just fabulous. This was the first time I actually got to hear what it is all about and I absolutely love it!  After the presentation on the Red Laces Campaign, Joseph and I were one part of the presentation on Fundraising. I felt really good about our fundraising session because everyone understood it and we got the message out how we want to correctly. The last presenter of the day was Jennifer Corriero. I enjoyed how she talked about different leadership styles and how it relates to changing the world and social media. I can defiantly say I got a lot out of the sessions today!


A’Lisa: We had to make a lot of adjustments for Wednesday’s agenda. Originally we were supposed to head to the Hellenic American University, but with the strike and protests going on we stayed safe and at the Hilton all day.  Sarah and Joseph did their part of the fundraising presentation and did a terrific job. They talked about the basic steps to planning and doing a fundraising event and the most important part being to come up with the idea in the first place! They also talked about getting people to help out (committee) and how fundraising events aren’t just about raising funds, but also raising awareness about Special Olympics.  They closed with “don’t forget that fundraising starts with FUN”!

Wednesday night was a great time to just socialize, enjoying what every teenager enjoys – music! There was music from every culture, in every language, and dancing of every style. It was terrific to watch the athletes, partners, from all backgrounds take pleasure in the time together. It really was a bonding experience for them all.



Sarah: So we were going around to the different venues to interview athletes. When we got to athletics I saw this HUGE group of team USA, so I was like let’s go over there! When we got over there I walked up to a coach and asked if I could interview one of the athletes and he point me to Andy! He said this is Andy and he is from North Carolina, I was like Andy, IM FROM NC!!!! It was great! 🙂 Best moment of the day!



Joseph: Tuesday was just another amazing day! I loved being the first to be on the webinar and talking to teens from around the world about the Global Youth Summit and Special Olympics. It was so fun.

The most important part about the day was that me and my partner Sarah went out and interviewed lots of the athlete at OAKA. We even met up with Andy Delafield from Greensboro North Carolina at the track competition. The part that made me smile the most was when I was high-fiving them and wishing them luck for their competition tomorrow. I think I want to be a reporter as I get older!


I seem to be picking up a lot of friends while I’m here and I’m having a really good time.


Parliament and Parthenon – North Carolina

Monday morning we were up earlier and dressed for our historic meeting with Parliament. The GYAS members took up almost the entire lower level of the seats in the room to hear the President of the Hellenic Parliament, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Prime Minister, and two different Ministers speak about Special Olympics, inclusion, and acceptance of all people regardless of abilities. Dr. Tim Shriver also spoke and his words were very inspirational and the room erupted in applause that went on for three or four minutes when he was done!


Many of the points that the speakers made in their speeches were applicable to Special Olympics, the Dignity Revolution, and the Power of Youth, as well as the current economic crisis that Greece is facing. They all acknowledged the depth of responsibility for what they pass on to the young people. His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch talked about how the Global Youth Activation Summit is an important organization and gives Greece and the world a chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity. The Summit and Special Olympics gives this generation opportunities to express themselves freely and constructively, it brings all experiences, skills, and ideas together to promote an attitude of change and empowerment for all.


The biggest thing we took away from the speeches is that being different is not a roadblock, it is simply part of life’s journey. The goal of life is not an end result, the goal is the effort itself.  And as Tim Shriver put it “We all start in the same place. We all end in the same place.  And we all have our own Odyssey.”


After the official presentation at Parliament we grabbed some lunch in Plaka and with teens from Greece acting as our guides and hosts, we hiked up to the Parthenon. Eddy was our guide as well as some of his friends. They gave us explanation about some of the shops, the roads, and explained all the Greek signs along the way. And when we got to the top, we can only say “What an amazing view!” Eddy found a tour guide for us and we were treated to some history lessons about the Goddess Athena, all the different things that the Parthenon has been used for over the years, and how everything about building the Parthenon was decided democratically by the people even 2500 years ago. At the top of the summit, there were athletes and families from Italy, Germany, Malaysia and several other groups all at the top. We had a chance to take several huge group pictures with various delegations as well as a group GYAS Parthenon picture.


From the Parthenon, we headed back down and over to the Village Mall for dinner and Unified Bowling with the volunteers from Mattel, a big supporter of Special Olympics. Sarah and Joseph had a chance to thank many of the volunteers who have provided financial support to SONC over the years. But the best part was the Unified Bowling! There was stiff competition for the best bowler and everyone had a terrific time!


So another historic, educational, and fun day for the Summiteers!

Opening Ceremonies and Sunday Sessions – North Carolina

Joseph: Opening Ceremonies was the most awesome and coolest thing I’ve ever been to! Never in my life have I smiled soo big truly enjoying myself and just being Joseph for once. That night included “That you don’t judge a person by what they look like but what really matter is what’s on the inside”. A million tongues couldn’t explain the rush that came onto me when we first stepped off the bus to line up for the march in. The feeling I had was just soo unexplainable.

Walking on that stage and down that center run I was somebody. Close your eyes and picture that you’re a singer and you just won the award for best voice for young people. Just picture as your walking up the stage people are cheering for you, celebrating your victory. That’s the rush and feeling I got when I went to Opening Ceremonies. The night ended with a performance by Stevie Wonder. The entire night was amazing.  🙂

Sarah: Yesterday went fantastic, as expected! The sessions were very good, and I am definitely enjoying the different styles and approaches to each one. Last night at Opening Ceremonies was absolutely AMAZING! The energy in the stadium was so moving and was just like WOW! I really enjoyed all the teams marching in and seeing all of the different outfits they were wearing were so cool! It showed me that we all have our different cultures, beliefs, and thoughts; but everyone in that stadium sure had a love for Special Olympics. Stevie Wonder was fantabulous, I enjoyed everyone dancing and singing!

I especially enjoyed the skit from the Odyssey.  The Odyssey is very connected to Special Olympics in the fact they are both journeys were you encounter many people, adventure, obstacles; but in the end you always conquer and defeat and come out a champion on many aspects of life!  The Global Messengers were fantastic, and it was great to see their excitement when telling their greatest victory and it gave me new inspirations for future Global Messenger speeches with Joseph.

One of another great part was when Stevie Wonder was talking about ALL the different supporters of Special Olympics and how they are “Ima Mesa!”, because of the dream of a very special lady, Eunice Shriver, there are opportunities for all and no one is better than another. This was very inspiring and encourages me to be even more involved. I am so excited to be able to come back and share all of the new ideas with the North Carolina Youth Activation Council.

So, to start off Sunday we went to the Dookas School and that is where we had our sessions. Today we led our session on Empowering Change: Speaking Up Against the R-word, Changing Attitudes for Respect. We did an activity giving everyone scenarios and they had to decide how comfortable they were in handling that situation.  We included some basic questions like “How comfortable are you dancing in front of people” and “How comfortable are you talking to a teacher if they use the R-Word”.  I think it went pretty well since we changed it last minute because we found out the group ahead of us held the same information in their presentation.

After that session was over everyone was playing either basketball or soccer and was awesome to actually see the joy of Unified play, because you see a different perspective from the outside looking in. I enjoyed the Unified Volleyball, because that was my first experience in it. It was so good to see everyone cheering each other on even for mistakes. It’s a big switch from the average high school play and really sets an example for those players. I look forward for what is in store the rest of the week!

A’Lisa: It’s been an awesome experience so far and the personal highlight for me (so far) was the Opening Ceremonies. Absolutely exhilarating and humbling at the same time. It made me realize yet again how blessed I am to be connected to SO and to be able to work with and for the athletes of SONC. I think I cried the entire walk into the stadium. I was truly overwhelmed with emotions.

The performances were all amazing and each tied to Special Olympics in so many ways. From “The Calling” talking about the start of civilization – related both to Greek culture, but also the start of the Special Olympics movement and the Dignity Revolution. To “The Odyssey” talking about the challenges that everyone – athletes, families, and the Special Olympics movement – have been pushing through for years. Even the performance by Stevie Wonder was amazing and so related to celebrating the gifts, accomplishments, and joy of everyone in the stadium. Truly amazing!