I want to tell you a story about a kid who had a dream and worked tirelessly to make it come true. Shy, intimidated, but who experienced things in life that made him tough, determined and unwilling to give up. A kid just trying to keep up with everyone else.
The expectations were high. The odds were against him. But even in those difficult situations—times he wanted to quit, wanted to give up—he always had a reason to keep pushing forward.
All he had to do was look around while walking ESPN’s campus to realize that sports journalism was what he was born to do. ESPN, you looked out for him in a way so many others didn’t.
Out of thousands of applications, he was one of 61 interns and the first Special Olympics athlete to earn a position in the program. That is something he takes a lot of pride in. He worked hard and as a result, he received one of the hardest internships in sports.
Over 10 weeks, he learned that ESPN is, by far, the most competitive atmosphere he’s ever been a part of. Everyone is the best at what they do. And he learned to be at the top of his game.
That’s all ESPN asks for.
Thank you, ESPN, for asking everything of him. For challenging him. For giving this kid a place to find himself. He didn’t know what to expect, but you gave him the support to figure it out. You took a chance on him when you didn’t have to.
Near the end of the internship, the X Games and Special Olympics partnered together for a unified BMX race. After five years in the winter X Games, the Special Olympics Unified division—a division in which pros pair up with Special Olympics athletes—debuted at the summer X Games. He was a part of that. In an organization where he was once an athlete and a new one where he continues to learn from the best, he was able to spread the importance of inclusion through his writing and voice, sharing the story of Special Olympics Minnesota athlete Noah Reedy with ESPN.
He found his passion.
He found his voice.
And it’s an experience that stole his heart.
Today he is no longer that kid. He finished the internship. He’s graduated from college. He’s done everything he has set out to achieve. Now, he is a communications fellow and athlete-reporter with Special Olympics North America, which he loves dearly. He’s taken what he’s learned from the Worldwide Leader in Sports and has become a better journalist and self-advocate because of it.
As he’s started a new chapter of his life, he knows this much: without you, he wouldn’t be the person he is today.
Because the truth is, when a place feels like home, as ESPN does for him, you never really leave. And he will do everything in his power to return one day as a full-time storyteller.
Special Olympics Global Week of Inclusion highlights Champions of Inclusion. ESPN has gone above and beyond, aiming for a more inclusive world in sports for athletes like myself. They continue to support and share the stories of athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID). This is my story and this is why they are my Champion of Inclusion.