Special Olympics Missouri Athlete Finds A “Place to Belong”

Inspired by our mission, SOMO offers programs that cultivate the whole athlete on and off the sports field. It’s easy to see that lives can’t help but be changed through the programs that we offer such as:

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Travis Mankin leads a tour at the Training for Life Campus during our dedication celebration

However, when you talk with an athlete, it truly comes to life. You not only hear their joy; you can truly feel it.

“My life wouldn’t be the same without Special Olympics,” says Travis Mankin, 52. “Ever since I can remember, Special Olympics has been a major part of my life. I have experienced community and a place to belong. I also have helped other athletes feel like they have a place to belong.”

When you speak to Travis, a lifelong athlete, you not only hear joy, but confidence in the leader he is becoming. According to Travis, SOMO is not just a place to train and compete, but it’s a community to belong to.

“As I get older, I can’t help but think about the younger kids that are not a part of Special Olympics and feeling bullied or just sitting on the sidelines,” he says. “That would have been me if I didn’t have Special Olympics. I want to make sure that these kids become a part of Special Olympics and experience the friendships and belonging that I have experienced.”

“I want to make sure that these kids become a part of Special Olympics and experience the friendships and belonging that I have experienced.”

Travis is not just an athlete; he has become a leader who wants to pass on a legacy for generations to come. This is what makes SOMO so much more than just a program or an athletic organization. SOMO is a family, a community, a place to belong.

“I love our new Training for Life Campus because it’s a place for our athletes,” he says. “I want to help raise funds to complete the back fields so that more athletes like me and athletes that aren’t even apart of Special Olympics yet have a place to call home. I want to talk to everyone about this campus and help open the back fields.”

Travis works at Oscars in Jefferson City and is determined to help raise funds for our back fields referred to as the “Back 9,” which include a softball field, tennis courts, bocce courts, horseshoes court, golf skills field, athlete pavilion and Law Enforcement Torch Run Plaza. Travis is joining the Training for Life Campus Charter Class: A group of athletes who together have raised more than $245,000 for the Training for Life Campus to ensure that SOMO athletes can experience what they have for generations to come.

Whether you are a donor, coach, volunteer, fan, or an athlete — you are SOMO! Thank you for being a part of this life-changing movement. Athletes like Travis need your support. Please consider giving to our charter athletes by visiting their fundraising pages or by contacting our Major Gifts Officer, Travis Bourbon at bourbon@somo.org. If you are a current athlete and would like to raise funds for the Training for Life Campus by raising a minimum of $1,000, please consider becoming a Charter Class athlete by clicking here. Contact Mary Niswonger at niswonger@somo.org for more information.

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World Games 2019 Update 6

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

It’s been a wonderful day! One we’ll remember, cherish and celebrate the rest of our days.

Colin and Tom won the gold medal in doubles! Imagine that – best in the world in their division. It takes our breath away.

And it wasn’t an easy win. They played an excellent team from Gibraltar who went ahead 6-0 in the first 2 frames. That’s a big hole to dig out of. But Colin and Tom dug deep and stayed focused. They only allowed 2 more points the rest of the match. They had another 4 point frame which helped immensely. It finished with an 8-8 tie with the very last ball being within a fraction of an inch in Colin and Tom’s favor. The way the scoring works, Colin and Tom were the uncontested gold medal winners with no tie break needed. They beat the great team from Hungary by 1 point. It was a very close group of teams and every game was down to fractions of an inch. And they won the GOLD!!!!

We couldn’t be more proud. Colin earned a bronze, silver and gold in world competition! That’s pinch-yourself-amazing!!

We spent a good portion of the day waiting on medal ceremonies for all of our athletes. But it was worth celebrating every one of them.

Watching athletes Malta, the Isle of Man, Bangladesh, Suriname and Sudan beaming with their awards warms your heart and humbles you. Try to appreciate how much it took for all of these athletes, from countries large and tiny, rich and poor, to make it to this event, overcoming obstacles through their whole lives. It gives you great perspective about what matters.

Meet the Determined is a phrase we saw everywhere and it captures the spirit of the athletes and the experience. People of Determination is a phrase UAE uses for individuals with intellectual differences. And they are determined. They showed that every single day and we know it’s how they live their lives.

We’ll be headed to the airport tonight to start our journey home. We gave Colin a big hug and high five. We’ll see him on Saturday when his flight arrives, beaming and grinning from ear to ear just as he has all week, with a crick in his neck from wearing so much metal.

We’ll provide an additional update this weekend. Thanks for all of your love and support on this journey. It’s been amazing and it leaves us speechless and humbled.

Many thanks and Abu Dhabi signing out!

Love
Mike and Karen

Colin medal trioColin Tom Gold Medals

 

2019 World Games Update 5

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

It’s been a great day of world-class, edge of your seat bocce. And we know what that looks and feels like first hand! It’s an exhilarating and draining experience in equal measures.

To cut to the chase, Colin and his partner, Tom, won all three of their matches in exciting and stomach twisting fashion. We couldn’t be more proud of how they kept their composure against some fearsome competition from Aruba, Singapore and particularly a very strong team from Hungary. Not every point or frame went their way but enough of them did to pull out the wins. In the last frame against Hungary they were measuring to within a fraction of an inch. We squeaked out with a win instead of a draw which matters in terms of point total.

Colin and Tom absolutely played the best bocce they’ve played since they’ve been here. In two matches, they scored 4 points in a frame which is the most points you can get and it doesn’t happen often. The guys encouraged each other throughout the day and played extremely well as a team. We’re pretty sure their awesome flag shorts contributed to their great play! (See attached)

And it’s not over yet. They have one more game in the morning to determine their final standings. Other teams in their bracket play 2 games tomorrow so we still have a ways to go before they see how they placed. We wouldn’t want to have a peaceful night’s sleep or anything….

Other fun activities today included eating lunch with the team and celebrating one of the player’s birthday, complete with cake.

This evening Special Olympics USA and the US Embassy hosted a lovely reception and dinner for US athletes and their families. It was at a beautiful hotel and many members of the Embassy staff and the US military were there. The Air Force band played, there were remarks from athletes, Special Olympics staff, the Charge d’affaire from the Embassy as well as the lead Colonel from military. All in all, an impressive event that put the spotlight on the athletes. Colin was even interviewed by the Embassy social media crew. He’s an international media star!

We have one more day here to watch the last of the competition and awards. Then we fly out at 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning to start our long trip back. Colin will stay through closing ceremonies on Thursday and fly out Friday. He’ll be back in KC on Saturday morning on United flight 3493 arriving from Newark at 11:01 a.m. if anyone wants to be in the welcoming crew. He’ll be exhausted but might still be running on adrenaline and walking on sunshine.

We’ll try to send a quick update before we take off with the final results. And we’ll try to get pictures of the closing ceremonies from the coaches we can share when we’re back home.

Thanks for all of your support. Your notes of encouragement have been the world to all of us. It feels like you’re sharing the journey with us. And it’s been one to last many lifetimes!

Colin and partner thumbs up

Colin mealtime

2019 World Games Update 4

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

A big hello to all of Colin’s support team,

Today has been much quieter and less eventful than yesterday. Colin and the men didn’t compete today. Just the women.

We watched several of the women’s matches and some other sports. Very close competition among such diverse countries. We were intrigued to see a Bocce match between the Isle of Man and Timor Leste. Not two countries who probably compete against each other often.

We briefly saw Colin today. The guys went to the beach. We’re not sure what the body of water is. They just got their feet wet and walked the beach.

Tomorrow and Wednesday everyone competes in doubles. So we’ll be on the edge of our seats again!

Thanks for the many great messages of support. We’ve shared them all with Colin. He grins ear to ear to hear from everyone.

We’ll send an update on doubles tomorrow. Busy day of matches tomorrow and Wednesday. Go USA!

Take care and many thanks.

colin on beach

World Games 2019 Update 3

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

This has been a day that’s hard to put into words – in a good way. But we’ll try.

Colin and the other USA men wrapped up singles play. And like every other day, it was full of nail biters. Every match seemed to come down to a gnat’s eyelash in measurements. Some went our way, some didn’t.

Colin played 1 match today against a very good young man from Costa Rica. They were really evenly matched. We were so proud of how well Colin maintained his composure under lots of pressure. His coach told him to take some deep breaths and stay focused. (Just like both of you did, Coach Larry and Coach Terri. You would have been proud.)

After a nail biting match, Colin came away with the win! We were so thrilled for him. He won 2 and lost 1 which put him in medal contention. We just got back from the awards ceremony and he won the silver! We are so proud he could win a medal in singles. It’s something he’s worked hard on for many years. To see him receive that medal on the world stage gave us chills. Pinching ourselves.

colin singles awards stand

Oh, and there were a couple of other big moments today. When we got to the match, the coach told us Senator Roy Blunt had come to the games and hoped to stop by to meet Colin since he’s the only athlete from Missouri. Well, he did show up with his wife Abby and son Charlie. They watched the whole match and couldn’t have been nicer or more interested in Colin and learning about bocce.

And to add a little more excitement to the match Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy’s son, and his wife Linda came to watch the match with the Blunts. No pressure, Colin. Just play your game and don’t mind the important people watching! And that’s what he did. He stayed focused and won a great match. Proud doesn’t begin to describe how we felt.

colin dignitaries

After the match, they were excited to meet Colin and congratulate him and the other athletes. They were warm and kind and interested in Colin.

Oh and then it was time to join this group for lunch! Tim and Linda Shriver, Roy, Abby and Charlie Blunt plus their staff and representatives from the embassy, Colin, his coach and us had a lovely meal together. Not what we expected when we got up this morning! Like we said, we were pinching each other.

In the world of Special Olympics it really doesn’t get any more amazing than this. And every one of them took a genuine interest in Colin. We expressed our appreciation for them taking time with Colin and us. Tim said this is his favorite part of what he does- getting to spend time with the athletes. He even asked Colin how to do his trademark stretch/lean position for bocce.

colin stretch

And we learned Senator Blunt was one of the people who sponsored legislation for the Healthy Athletes’ program. This is a screening program for Special Olympics for many health issues like vision, hearing, dentistry etc. It’s been very valuable in helping athletes get tested and treated for health issues. One of the USA athletes was fitted for hearing aids and another is getting new glasses. It’s a great program inside a fantastic program.

Well, like we said it’s been a pretty amazing day! It’s hard to imagine what could top this!

Again we extend our thanks to all of you who’ve cheered on Colin and supported him over the years. Who would have imagined our curly-headed toddler with an unknown future would be in Abu Dhabi winning World Olympic medals and having lunch with senators and CEOs? As we often say, we’re just along for the ride. Colin is the star who inspires us. How blessed are we to have him and all these athletes in our lives. They set the example of how to live our lives – with open hearts, outstretched hands and open minds.

colin two medals

2019 World Games Update 2

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

We’re wrapping up another busy day. We watched Colin and others on the bocce team compete in men’s singles. The level of competition is remarkable. So many of the athletes are able to place their ball precisely where it needs to be. Every roll we had our hearts in our throats.

Again Colin and his teammates had some very tough matches. Colin won one and lost one. Both were nail biters. We’re very proud at how Colin has done against some remarkable players. (Coach Larry. You’d be proud too and you’d be chewing your nails down like we are!). The other players had similar days. Tomorrow will wrap up singles and we’ll see how everyone does. We’re proud of how all of them are representing our country.

In between matches, we had time to watch some other events. We saw some great volleyball and quite a bit of basketball. The basketball team from Puerto Rico had an enthusiastic cheering section and the team played at a really high level. Great to watch!

While we were there, Tim Shriver and the young woman who is a unified ESPN broadcaster stopped by. You can tell how much parents and fans appreciate Tim and the work he does carrying on his mother’s legacy.

The team was done earlier today than previous days and were looking forward to some extra sleep. They’ve been running off of short night’s of sleep.

We have more competition to watch tomorrow and look forward to cheering on all of the great athletes. It’s inspiring to watch athletes overcoming the challenges they face as they rise above in competition. We saw 2 young men with cerebral palsy from Pakistan and Jamaica play remarkable bocce with beaming smiles. They’ve been given the opportunity to compete on the world stage because of a dream Eunice Shriver had and the countless people who’ve carried that dream for more than 50 years – including all of you who’ve supported Colin and so many others. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We’re so proud to be here representing all of you. We can hear you cheering from across the miles! Colin’s been reading the many great messages from you, grinning ear to ear!

Colin bocce

Colin and teammate

2019 World Games Update 1

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

We made it after a long couple of days travel and want to give you an update on the early days.

Travel went smoothly and we made it to our hotel Wednesday morning around 2:00 a.m. Later that morning after some sleep we picked up our credentials at the family center.

One of the smartest things we did was book our lodging at a hotel in the massive complex where Colin is competing. We just walk through our lobby and into the ADNEC complex. Probably a dozen sports are competing there so we can walk from Bocce to basketball to powerlifting to judo to gymnastics to volleyball. We don’t have to rely on buses or shuttles. It’s so convenient.

Yesterday was all about opening ceremonies. They were at a scale that’s hard to grasp. The venue is a very large stadium that seats around 60,000. We know many of you watched or recorded the ceremony but we’re not sure what was broadcast. Before the main ceremony began, there were performances by the police band, a men’s choir with women performing dance moves, men walking around with Saluki dogs and royal falcons, a military flyover with 4 colors of vapor trails. Everything was at a huge scale with lots of cultural elements. So inspiring.

The parade of athletes gave us chills. 200 countries! The largest number ever to participate. We’ve seen athletes from more than 100 countries from Faroe Islands to Burkina Faso to Moldova to Botswana and beyond. It’s humbling to hear the languages and uniforms but to appreciate how many similarities there are. From the joy in faces, the determination and spirit, to the common bond of celebrating these amazing athletes and their accomplishments. We definitely are more alike than we are different.

And now to Colin. We finally saw him for the first time today. They’ve been very busy with practice and special events. The red carpet is rolled out for them everywhere they go. A highlight for Colin was last night when he met Mariano Rivera who was part of the US delegation. (Famous baseball pitcher for those who might not know the name).

When we were at the Bocce venue this morning, Mariano and his son came by. We were also greeted by staff from the US embassy, a Navy commander from the surgeon general’s office and Karen Pence, the second lady, who is representing the government. They sat and watched part of a game and visited. A nice moment for fans and athletes.

Colin competed in traditional team Bocce today. They had tough competition from Libya and Bahrain. They were shaking out some jitters. After the day of competition Colin’s team took home the bronze medal! We couldn’t be more proud to watch him receive that world medal. See a couple of pictures from the ceremony. One of the sheikhs presented his award. Pretty cool!! Not often do you get a bronze medal at a world games from a sheikh! We just hang around Colin. He’s the famous one!!

Bocce team bronze

Bocce team awards stand

We’ll send another update in a day or so. We’ll feeling your support and love! We’re making memories for a lifetime!

Thanks and Abu Dhabi out!

Mike and Karen