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Fraizer family making an impact

July 28, 2010

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Richard Frazier, Ronnia Frazier, Eli Frazier- North Carolina

Photo and story by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Frazier Family Making an Impact

The Frazier family came from halfway across the country to volunteer at the power lifting venue for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Frazier family’s passion for the Special Olympics began over 20 years ago when Richard and Ronnia met in college. “We got involved with Special Olympics in college in North Carolina. The college promoted the event and so we began volunteering. My husband then took a job that required him to work at the State Games in Greenville and then it all snowballed from there,” Ronnia said.

That snowball has only gotten bigger and a lot has changed since their first experience at the State Games in North Carolina. Richard has been the technical delegate for power lifting at the regional, state, national and international level. In addition to working regional and state levels, Richard was the technical delegate for the inaugural USA National Games in Ames, Iowa and worked internationally for the Dublin, Ireland, Shanghai, China and next year’s Athens, Greece Special Olympics world games. His wife Ronnia and their son, Eli travel with him and volunteer as officials for the power lifting competitions. Eli started getting involved with Special Olympics five years ago, “When I was younger my parents got me started. I was the tag along, but I fell in love with it and just keep coming back for more,” expressed Eli.

For the Frazier family it isn’t about travel or the praise of other people. Rather it is about the athletes and what they do. With a tear in her eye Ronnia stated, “It’s the spirit. It’s the spirit of love, teamwork and everybody coming together; nobody’s grouchy, everyone is happy and everyone comes together, it’s beautiful, it’s a yes I can attitude.” Richard noted that, “We enjoy what we do here. We always feel great because once you experience the enjoyment of the athletes it’s something that will always be near and dear to my heart. I enjoy working with the athletes, coaches and other workers and volunteers.”

The Fraziers are a unique and inspiring family. Instead of having a family trip to Hawaii or California, they spend their vacations working and volunteering for the Special Olympics. “It feels very good to work together as a family,” Richard said, “We do lots of things together, but all of us working together for the same goal and same purpose is really meaningful to me.”

“This truly makes you appreciate what you have” Ronnia describes. “Sometimes it’s so easy to say I can’t do this or maybe I don’t want to get up in the morning, but when you look at somebody who has to put fourth so much more effort, and then you do too. My experience with Special Olympics has changed my life.”



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First Special Olympics Wyoming power lifter competes in Games

July 27, 2010

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Coleman enters stage before competing in the bench press event held at Kimball Hall.

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Coleman poses with his coach in between power lifting events on Thursday.

Photos and story by: Alanna Nunn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

He’s a John Wayne fan and likes to watch baseball. He works at Village Inn in Casper, Wyoming and has done so for the past 20 years. He’s 67 years old and a power lifter in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Fred Coleman began his power lifting career in 2004 when the Special Olympics introduced the sport to the state of Wyoming. It was then that Fred became the first Special Olympics power lifting athlete in his state.

Coleman has participated in the Special Olympics for over 30 years. Aside from power lifting, he also competes in cross country skiing during the Special Olympics Winter Games. He has been training for the power lifting competition for about 16 weeks, and was fully prepared coming into the USA National Games. When asked what his favorite part about the event was, Coleman replied, “It would have to be the dead lift.”

Coleman says he has enjoyed a lot of things about his trip to Nebraska. He competed in the bench press and dead lift competitions on Thursday. The power lifting events were held at Kimball Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



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One for Oregon

July 24, 2010

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Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

On Friday, one unified soccer team made a goal that sent the players, coaches and fans into pure elation. The goal didn’t win a gold medal. It didn’t even win the game.

Yet for one team from Sutherland, Ore., this goal was just as sweet. The team had not scored a goal throughout the entire regional, state and national competition.

In the team’s fifth game at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, one ball changed everything. In the first half between Oregon and South Carolina, Brittany Thompson received a pass from her teammate.

She dribbled toward the goal. Past the last defender. And shot.

The ball zipped by the goalie into the yellow net.

Hands rose into the air. High fives erupted everywhere. Players, coaches, fans, even volunteers cheered. While most of the action was on the championship fields, Oregon was on the top of the world at field six.

Now, they could celebrate more than new friends, top-notch competition and state recognition. They could finally say they scored a goal.

“Even though we didn’t win, we got that goal. And every game was close,” said head coach Matt Parrish. “We always had the chance to win.”

“That was the monkey off our back,” said assistant coach Jill Fummerton.

“That makes it fun,” Parrish said. And in the end, it made this game one that Oregon fans will remember for a lifetime.



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North Dakota power lifter takes home three golds

July 23, 2010

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Powerlifter Ben Wahlstrand celebrates his gold medal on the podium after the competition.

Photo and story by: Emily Sallach, UNL

The only thing bigger than Ben Wahlstrand’s fan following was the smile on his face. 

Wahlstrand, from Grand Forks, N.D., had 16 fans with him on Tuesday morning at Kimball Hall.  These fans were friends and family from five different states.  Some family members traveled all the way from California and Arizona to watch him compete this week, and many other fans watched him from the live online stream. 

Wahlstrand has been involved with the Special Olympics for eight years but competed at a national level this year for the first time.  He started out in Special Olympics playing basketball and in the past three years found his talent for power lifting.

Wahlstrand’s family members could barely find the words to express how proud they are of him.  They talked about how he was an over-achiever and is always pushing to do better.  He holds two jobs and was the keynote speaker at his high school graduation.

When Wahlstrand was asked to compete at the 2010 Special Olympic USA National Games, he said he “humbly accepted” the opportunity. 

He said he likes power lifting because “it makes me feel good inside, but family is what really makes me a success here.  They give me something to believe in …”

Wahlstrand will travel back to North Dakota with not just one gold medal but two.  He collected a gold medal in bench press and dead lift, while his teammate Shale Erickson was right behind him with a silver in the same events. This also meant Walhstrand took home the gold for the combined bench and dead lift, raising his total to three on the day.

Wahlstrand said he enjoyed his week in Lincoln at the USA National Games and loved getting to watch the other athletes compete and, in his words, “do amazing things.” 

He credits his trainer Adam Sorum for getting him started in power lifting and Will Kuslerr for coaching him at the state-level games. 



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A reflection on things learned

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Covering the athletes, recording myself

The first thing you’re taught as young journalist is to leave your biases at home. In this case, I took them with me.

For the last two weeks the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications has been documenting the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. This unique class allowed students to cover the USA National Games like a journalist or broadcaster.

After we collected sound-bites, video and interviews, the information was edited and published on the Internet for the world to see. We even sported official press credentials.

Beginning on July 12, students got a crash course in the world of journalism and mass media. We were taught how to use the latest professional non-linear editing software, learned how to operate three different types of high definition video cameras and were reminded that active voice is always preferred to passive voice.

Most of us may have assumed Special Olympics athletes are less capable of doing the things we might do ourselves

So how does an unbiased journalist block out the sentiment of joy when these athletes do more when they are perceived to be able to do less? We don’t. We feed this emotion on the inside by capturing it on the outside.

Scott Rohrer, 21, broke the Special Olympics international golf record this week with his 71 score for 18 holes of golf. Michigan’s Kolan McConiughey has bowled seven perfect games in his life. Team Florida’s basketball squad was so dominant in Special Olympics Games play this week that it was invited to play an exhibition game against former star high school basketball players. Team Florida won that game, too.

These performances and many more were amazing to see – and not solely as sport. The personalities were the real show.

The athletes’ enthusiasm was contagious. The high-fives never got old. The smiles were unrehearsed and could brighten the cloudiest of days. The sportsmanship was in full force. NBA commissioner David Stern should use it as a “101 good sportsmanship video” to show professional basketball players.

Bob Els, who directed the golf venue in Lincoln, said, “When you get out and watch the players play and cheer for each other, and for themselves when they make a good shot, it is something special.”

The last two weeks I have learned a lot. I am now comfortable approaching others for interviews. You do not pan just to pan while videotaping. Having a backup memory card is a must.

But what I will take most out of Special Olympics Journalism 498 is that the media have the power to shine a light on issues the public sometimes overlooks.

Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault once said, “If people are informed, they will do the right thing. It’s when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice.”

Mass communications can change others’ outlooks – as well as my own.

Story by Aaron Krienert, Picture by Josh Kellams



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A family affair

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Team Delaware’s David Hill blew away spectators as he took on over 500 pounds in the dead weight portion of the competition.
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Photos and story by NaTasha Rollerson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Power lifter David Hill of Newark Delaware poses with his biggest fan in the stands, his mother Corrinne Pearson. David has been power lifting for four years in local competitions.

“David has Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS) but, he has come so far in his speech that you can barely tell he has an intellectual disability” Says Corrinne.

LKS is a rare disorder that appears sometime during early childhood. A major affect of this disorder is the gradual or sudden loss of the ability to understand and use spoken language.

“David as a child could not even tell me he wanted a glass of water. People told me that I should look into David learning how to use sign language. One day David’s little sister Sara was going to touch an iron and David yelled No Sara Hot! That is when I knew he was capable of speaking and I refused to cripple my son” said Corrinne.

David started to develop his own language to communicate. His sister picked up on this language as well. Sara had to be sent to tutors to break the language she used to communicate with her brother and learn English. David saw his sister’s determination to learn how to speak and this is what motivated him to learn English.

David is now 26 years old and speaking very clearly. He is a gold medalist in tennis, basketball, bowling, and now powerlifting.

When David was asked what was the most challenging part about competing in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National games he said,

“The kilos were different, the squats were deeper, and it was heavy!!”

After the National Games David plans to continue power lifting with a personal trainer, performing in local meets in Delaware, and if it is possible he would love to compete in Worlds.



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Tennessee’s Evans a most valuable player

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tennessee Thunder’s Kevin Evans, 18, of Columbia, Tenn., runs against the Indiana Kats in the opening game of the Division 1 traditional team playoff. Evans, who runs, catches passes and plays defense, tore up the field all week long.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Evans keeps a smile on his face even after his team loses its last game against Missouri, 12-16.

“He’s got the best heart,” says Thunder assistant coach Miles Duncan. “He’s MVP.”

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Evans works hard and focuses on what he’s learned while playing flag football.

“It’s about having fun and being smart,” he said.

Evans intends on including football in his future in Nashville, TN.



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Unified teams making unified friends

Arizona vs. Illinois

With the addition of flag football to the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, Payton LaCivita took the opportunity to volunteer his time and talent by joining the Arizona unified flag football team.

As a “unified partner,” LaCivita, a college student at Arizona State, is just as much as part of the team as his teammates with intellectual disabilities.

LaCivita said, “Three years ago my high school coach asked me to come and help out with these guys. I volunteered then, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The unified sports program started with an idea called “Project UNIFY.” According to the Special Olympics website, Project UNIFY’s goal is to “activate young people to develop strong communities where all young people are agents of change-fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities by utilizing programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.”

The program creates special bonds among teammates. For example, Marc Whatley, a 30-year old athlete from Tucson, Ariz., has found a friend in LaCivita. Both are athletes. Both love football. Both had smiles when they talked about their win. It’s their similarities that matter, not their differences.

Krista McDonald, Emily German – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, CoJMC



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Unified teams create strong bonds

July 22, 2010

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Members of the Texas Unified Volleyball Team are ready to hit the court on Thursday, July 22.

Story and Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Terri Eck is one of the biggest volleyball fan in the stands at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Her husband, Bo, is the assistant coach. Her son, Adam, is the newest addition to the Texas Unified Volleyball Team. They’ve traveled from Allen, Texas to compete in the National Games.

To trace the many connections within the team is next to impossible.

Three of the partners are special education teachers.

There’s a father-son duo on the court.

Head coach, Sandra Boggs, is a former special education teacher.

Partner Tom Jaconet works with an athlete’s parent.

Not only is partner Lisa Grantham a special education teacher, she has taught all of the athletes in the classroom. She is also the head of delegation for Allen Special Olympics. Her son, Brantley, is also a partner.

The Unified Texas team is extraordinary. It is not just a group of athletes playing with a group of partners. These teammates mesh. They connect in a way on a court that makes you think they had been playing together since they were young.

This Unified team practices together every Wednesday throughout the year. And leading up to the national tournament, they practiced even more. They compete against other local teams in their hometown recreational league.

Adam Eck, the newest member of the team, is autistic.

In 2006 Special Olympics USA National Games, held in Ames, Iowa, Adam competed in the swimming competition. But volleyball is Adam’s latest adventure; he joined the team six months ago.

According to Terri Eck, unified play allows athletes to excel in many different levels in their lives. The experience strengthens their volleyball skills, confidence levels and personalities.

Terri was an X-ray technician, but she became inspired to become a special education teacher. She has also taught general education and now teaches English as a second language.

According to Eck the members of the Texas Unified Team have become like a family. They grow together. They change. To watch the athletes be successful on and off the court is nothing less than amazing.

Terri Eck says, “It’s not a disability. It’s a different ability.”

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Athlete Jared Williamson, #9, extends a high five to teammate Paul Landry, #10.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Brantley Grantham, #1, goes up for the hit while teammate Ryan Landry, #5, helps out.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Mahoney and the City of Lincoln go extra mile to prepare for 2010 Special Olympic USA National Games

July 21, 2010

Mahoney Sign

When the City of Lincoln caught wind that the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games would take place here, preparations began almost immediately. The city’s Mahoney Golf Course had three years’ worth of changes to take care of before the national games arrived.

“Last year we had an NIT [national invitational tournament], which was comprised of 21 states,“ said Chuck Domant, pro shop assistant. “So we had a preview of what we were going to get this year.”

The most important issue Mahoney took care of was to make its facility handicapped accessible. That included remodeled restrooms and a re-carpeted clubhouse.

The next step was to make Mahoney’s appearance top notch for the games. Mahoney and the City of Lincoln removed and replaced sandpits, planted trees throughout the golf course and purchased a new scoreboard.

All the hard work appears to have paid off.

“It’s taken thousands of people to get hundreds of golfers, but the whole experience has been rewarding,” Domant said.

Article and Photo: Krista McDonald, Emily German, Jessica Monroe, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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