Ben’s Experience in Greece

7/25/11: Last night I saw Ben kneeling on the floor, hunched over with his forehead close to the carpet and music playing. I thought he was asleep since he often sleeps like that. However; after an hour or so, he proudly brought me a totally unsolicited and unprompted story. To share it with you, the first version is typed exactly as he wrote it. The second version is a direct translation. This is a significant amount of writing for Ben, as it took up eight pages in his composition notebook. He typically writes only one to two pages for a story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

            Terri Barnhart

The perfect place to stand Ben’s writing:

One day I went to Athns Grece for the wolde games for spucshl olpicks. We full to Now York and then to athns Greec. are plan ride was 14 Howers to get to greec and three Howers to Now Yorck. Then we got Grees we were welcomed to Grees by a lot of people for Griees. We tuck some Bus to are houtal at Greec. I had two room mats and they were ok some times.

We had brifst in the moring and eat soom food and ete really to go on are bus to go to opening caremones and we saw stevey wonds sigh some song’s and some fire works to woch. They had crkts sowlay at the opening Games. Then we went back to are hotale. Then we made some Now frends in athise Greec.

We wen into the guvers house and hade a good meeting with hime.

Then we wen to the Beach and sawame for a hower and 30 mints. then we at lunch Beach. We did a lot of Shoping.

We went to the big old towers in greec and wock all over for on Howere and had so much fun and so cool to look at evry thing up high. We went to SO minny coptishons sports. We sowe hand ball ange Athles poram and then we sow tabl tanise and Galf and valey ball.

We at so much food and it was ok. Then I eat some pizza that was vary good to eat. Then we went to closing sarmonys. Thay had so miny fire works that was my time in Greece. the end


One day I went to Athens, Greece for the World Games for Special Olympics. We flew to Newark and then to Athens, Greece. Our plane ride was 14 hours to get to Greece and three hours to Newark. Then when we got to Greece we were welcomed to Greece by a lot of people for Greece. We took some bus to our hotel at Greece. I had two roommates and they were okay sometimes.

We had breakfast in the morning and we ate some food and ate really fast to go on are bus to go to opening ceremonies and we saw Stevie Wonder sing some songs and some fireworks to watch. They had Cirque du Soleil (he thought it looked like that style of entertainment) at the opening games. Then we went back to our hotel. Then we made some new friends in Athens, Greece.

 We went into the governor’s house and had a good meeting with him.

 Then we went to the beach and swam for an hour and 30 minutes. Then we ate lunch at the beach. We did a lot of shopping.

We went to the big, old towers in Greece and walked all over for an hour and had so much fun and it was so cool to look at everything up high. We went to so many competition sports. We saw handball, young athletes program, and then we saw table tennis and golf and volley ball.

 We ate so much food and it was okay. Then I ate some pizza. That was very good to eat. Then we went to closing ceremonies. They had so many fireworks. That was my time in Greece. The end.


GYAS Reflection-Mandi DeWitt- SOCO

The 2011 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit was like a story out of a dream, from a dreamer who envisions a world without judgment, without rejection, and without hate.  With the landscape of beautiful Athens, Greece, the scenery was inspiring in itself but more importantly the power of the human spirit that I witnessed was surely what continued to take my breath away. 

From the incredible collection of cultural dances, songs, and testimonies of struggle and triumph came an overwhelming flood of strength, joy, and love, but more importantly the common purpose that was shared by everyone resonated in every personal conversation among new friends, every leadership session, and simply every encounter I had.  Whether it was a brief hello in passing or an intimate time of sharing, one thing was consistent.  We were all there because we believe in what’s possible. 

Every one of us, young or old, is that dreamer.  We are one in the same because we all believe in each other and in the impact we have when we come together as ONE unified force.  We have proved, as evidenced by this Youth Summit that when we work together not only in our own countries but with others around the world we build ties of indestructible strength.  We ignite a power so fierce that no negative words or actions can stop us from achieving our goal of acceptance, respect and dignity for all. 

I was personally awakened and reminded of the true power that our youth are capable of.  A fire was stirred in my soul to dig deeper into the untapped and undiscovered potential within my youth leaders and within myself.  It was very motivating to network with other adults who were also working to empower our world’s young people.  I am so honored to have met all my new allies and believe that what’s to come from these youth leaders is going to be anything but ordinary.  This experience has built us up, bound us together, strengthened our hearts, and energized our souls.  I know I will continue to follow in step with our youth revolutionaries as they lead the way to positive, permanent change.

It is such a privilege to know and be a part of such an incredible team of warriors.  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to experience this powerful event and be witness to the life altering moments of real and honest dignity.  Standing alongside all of you declaring that we will not only speak about what we want, we will not only be heard but we will do whatever it takes, everyday leaving footprints of progress for others to follow.

Young Athletes Rock!

Today our Global Youth Summit visited the Young Athletes Program. It was amazing with Opening Ceremonies and everything! I was very impressed with how much the little athletes age 2-7 really enjoyed doing their exercises for us today and how happy their parents and friends were to see them perform at the World Games in Athens. It’s great that Team Mattel was there to cheer them on and support them because Team Mattel is the sponsor who makes it possible for Young Athletes Programs to happen.

 I really love the Young Athletes Program because I am an athlete mentor for it back in my home town in Montana, USA.  The Young Athlete Program has helped me to feel confident being a leader because I help lead the kids in activities in my home town of Great Falls, Montana, USA and that really builds my confidence and now I am not shy or afraid to talk to groups of people about Special Olympics. The Young Athletes Program helps kids 2-7 years old get ready to be part of their local teams when they turn 8. Today they crawled through tunnels and kicked goals and it made their families really proud of them.

 There were 100’s of volunteers who made it easy for the young athletes to know what to do and where they were supposed to go. It makes all of us feel important when so many volunteers come to help and show happiness for us and the young athletes.

 Getting ribbons and stuffed mascots was a big highlight for the young athletes and that makes them just like all the rest of us athletes. Getting medals and ribbons is what we love. Ron Vederman and Team Mattel gave the ribbons which is important to have VIP’s show the athletes they care.


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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!

2011 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies!!!

Team Illinois wanted to give you a perspective from each of it’s 3 members. We had an amazing time at Opening Ceremonies!

Kim- (Coach Perspective)

As a coach and chaperone for the Global Youth Summit, participating in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 World Games was one of the best nights of my life. Being able to walk with Jordan and Alli and the rest of the GYAS participants for the first time in GYAS was overwhelming and emotional. I could only think of how far Special Olympics has come since I started volunteering and how much these GYAS participants and athletes deserved this. Being able to see Special Olympics on a global level has been a lifelong dream and the Opening Ceremonies did not let me down. As a coach, I could not have been more proud to see all of the athletes walking in. As a chaperone for GYAS, I was so excited to be an observer of this amazing youth movement and felt the weight of what these youth are about to accomplish. I found myself feeling proud and emotional while watching these ceremonies with the Acropolis glowing in the background of this historic moment for me, the GYAS and Special Olympics.



Alli- (Peer perspective)

Words cannot describe how amazing walking into the opening ceremonies was. You know how in the movies, sports players walk onto the field and they look around at everyone and all of the flashing lights in awe? This was just like that. It was so surreal. Watching every country walk onto the stage made me realize why we are here and how much of an impact the Global Youth has the potential to make. We are going to get more supporters, programs and are going to help motivate these hard working athletes even more. The Global Messengers were such a huge inspiration to me. As they spoke about their greatest accomplishment, ranging from getting married to winning a medal and dedicating it to their best friend, I was moved by how much these people could accomplish. Their inspiration motivates me to work even more when I get back, so that every person with a disability has the opportunity to live up to their full potential. I know these athletes will be able to do whatever they want on and off the playing field. Participating in the opening ceremonies is something I will never forget.


Our perspective walking into the Opening Ceremonies

Jordan (Athlete perspective)

I have been competing in Special Olympics for many years in three different sports. I have been in many high adrenaline situations but last night, I had the biggest non-competitive adrenaline rush. Imagine leading your team out of the locker room and onto the field in the Super Bowl. That was what it was like leading off the introductions to the 2011 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies. That night included lots of excitement with a bunch of Greek singing and dancing, an amazing performance by Stevie Wonder, and being less that a football length away from NBA superstar Yao Ming, here representing the athletes of his native country China. However, out of all of those, the best part of the night was hearing from twelve Global Messengers from all parts of the world. They talked about what their greatest victory has been. I learned that winning a gold medal is not the only victory in Special Olympics. Some of the answers included getting married, going to school and getting a good education, having a successful job and many others. Although some of them did not speak English, I could still understand that they worked hard and truly deserved whatever it was. As for myself, my biggest victory (other than winning four championships in basketball) is being part of one of the biggest youth movements in the world.


The 12 Global Messengers that spoke at Opening Ceremonies!!


Welcome to the Special Olympics Project UNIFY blog where youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities will share their experiences as they advocate for inclusion, respect and acceptance in schools across the United States.

Our first blogging adventure will follow the 10 U.S.-based youth who are attending the Global Youth Activation Summit, as part of the Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011. They’ll share photos, videos, stories and more as they engage with youth leaders from around the world.  

So bookmark us, toss us in your RSS reader, sign up for email updates, or just come back here as often as you can to stay up to date with everything that’s happening. With these amazing youth leaders, there’s always something new and exciting to read about!