Friday, May 29, 2015

Being Part of the Trail to World Games

Ben at the 2015 Special Olympics Mecklenburg Spring Games

Ben is just ONE athlete who participates in the Special Olympics. There are many children and adults with intellectual disabilities who benefit from the sports programs, coaching relationships and fellowship that comes along with competing in the Special Olympics.

There are no costs involved for the athletes. They attend practices, local tournaments, state games and world games - with no cost to them. All expenses are paid through donations.

Today at 6:54am, a message on Facebook popped up from John, "hi vanessa". John is one of the adult athletes I met through the Special Olympics steering committee. After hellos and how are yous, John told me that he was going to the state games today for track and field. He competes in the softball throw and the 25 and 50 meter races. He proudly shared with me that he has been involved with track since 1972.  After he assured me that he would stay hydrated at today's games, we said our goodbyes.

I can only hope that in 40 years, Ben will still be surrounded by this supportive and loving community of coaches, volunteers and athletes. Help keep Special Olympics strong. Donate to the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America: Ben's Special Olympics Page.

** Ben is carrying the Flame of Hope on June 4, 2015. He will be riding his tricycle for a 1/2 mile segment of the route to LA for the World Games. He needs everyone's support to raise money for the Special Olympics. Find out more information here: Unified Relay Across America

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Help Get Our Team to #1

Ben and I are participating in the 
Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America TeamOur Team is in 2nd place in fundraising among ALL 106 teams in North Carolina. We are only $135 behind. If you want Ben's team to be #1 (and help out Special Olympics programs), please donate here:

A fundraising page for Ben McCall
Our Team: Six Strong in Charlotte!
On May 14th, the Flame of Hope was lit in Athens, Greece-the site of the last Special Olympics World Games in 2011.  It arrived on American soil and is currently making its journey across the country via the Unified Relay Across America to Los Angeles for the 2015 World Games in July!  Our team of passionate parents, students, and coaches will be running the torch on a segment in Charlotte, NC next Thursday, June 4th .  This is a once in a lifetime experience to be a part of this movement to create awareness and unite communities in acceptance of those with intellectual disabilities.
Our team consists of six people:
Amy Clark works with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District as an Adapted Physical Education teacher. Amy is also a Special Olympics Coach and will be representing Mecklenburg County at the World Games as an Aquatics Coach.
Jolanda Hengstman works with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District as an Adapted Physical Education teacher.  Jolanda is also the liaison between the CMS schools and Special Olympics Mecklenburg County and will be attending the World Games as a delegation liaison for Team The Netherlands.  
Marie Slusser works with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District as Lead Adapted Physical Education consultant.  She is very familiar with Special Olympics having been involved in a variety of roles since 1973.
Ben McCall is a 5th grader and has been a Special Olympic athlete since he was 8 years old.
Vanessa Infanzon is Ben’s mom and a volunteer on the Special Olympics Mecklenburg County steering committee.
Lorcan Welton is a 4th grader at Park Road Montessori,  Jolanda’s son, and loves sports.
Our team is raising money for the Special Olympics. Your donation will help support the programs and services offered through the Special Olympics. Thank you for your help!

Friday, May 22, 2015

At the Races

For the first time, we attended the 29th Annual Special Olympics Night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Wow! What an impressive event for families, group home residents, teams and schools. We were greeted by the United States Air Force National Guard and handed t-shirts and flags. After dinner, dancing and even some frisbee play, we all headed over to the speedway in golf carts.

We went to a NASCAR race in 2011 with Grin Kids, but we were newbies and did not know to bring headphones or seat Ben in a wheelchair area. We spent the entire time fighting Ben as he "interacted" with the NASCAR enthusiasts and driven crazy by the noise of the roaring engines.

This time we came prepared - headphones, earplugs and special seating for Ben. We made it through the practice rounds and all three qualifying races. We finished the evening with a thrill ride through the parking lot in a wheelchair ramped golf cart driven by a man who missed his calling as a race car driver.

Thank you to the wonderful people who sponsored and planned this event!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Larry Sprinkle Love

Larry Sprinkle is a local celebrity in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the long time weatherman for NBC Charlotte Today. He also supports several organizations like Special Olympics, making him a popular man in this city.

Mr. Sprinkle has been announcing for the Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies for many, many years. He does not let up on his enthusiasm on any of the over 100 schools. Ever. It is genuine and heartfelt. He does a truly amazing job of making each athlete feel special as they parade past the cheering crowds.

After the opening ceremonies, I was heading to our car with my kids and friend, Tracy. Tracy noticed Larry Sprinkle walking by himself across the parking lot. I instantly said, "I want a photo with him." Tracy, who is never in need of extra prompting for spontaneity, told me he would take the photo. We sprinted across the lot and caught up with Mr. Sprinkle. Without a care in the world or even a "who is this crazy lady and her friend" look, he took a few photos with me. I thanked him for all that he does for Special Olympics.

I thought I was the only one with love for Larry. Turned out I was wrong. At the Special Olympics meeting this week, I proudly announced that I had my photo taken with the big guy. Our director said, "So did half the teenage girls that were there in the choir." Probably exaggerating, right? No.

The next day, I received 800 photos taken at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies. The photos below were within the file and are proof of Larry's adoring fans.


Monday, May 18, 2015


UPDATE: Our URAA team is the #2 Fundraiser in North Carolina! Help us be #1 - Ben's Page

Who thought a picture of a map would bring chills and excitement? We just received our team's route for the Unified Relay Across America for Special Olympics. We will walk, jog, run or roll this 1/2 mile segment with our teammates. I hope there will be a crowd cheering us on - we are close to our own neighborhood (hint, hint).

If you have not had a chance to donate, Ben is now an official member of the team and you can donate directly in his honor: Ben's Page.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why fill the stands for Special Olympics?

The media interviewing Special Olympics' staff asked why it is important for the community to support the athletes. In a three minute interview, it is hard to give the full answer. The quick reason is to show support to the athletes who have been working hard to participate and then compete in an event.

The longer answer to this question, according to me, is to raise awareness in the community about a group of people who get left out, but who desperately want to be a part of something. They want to be included, noticed, liked, asked to join, befriended and accepted. "They" are no different than you or I.

Filling the stands at the opening ceremonies with people who may be new to the Special Olympics organization and the population they serve may help people with intellectual disabilities be seen with athletic abilities, leadership qualities and communication skills. One friend took her two boys out of school to attend the opening ceremonies. The boys already asked to participate next year.

Why fill the stands for Special Olympics? Because it is just the beginning.

* Ben and I joined a team to walk the torch while it is passing through Charlotte, on its way to LA for the Special Olympic World Games.  We only need $40 more to reach our goal of $100. The deadline for donations is May 20. Check out our page here: Special Olympics Torch Relay