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May Volunteer Spotlight

May 09, 2016 • Volunteer, unified sports

Volunteer Spotlight: Robert Tadjiki

Robert Tadjiki became familiar with Special Olympics when he started his teaching career in Illinois and was in awe of the opportunities it gave to adults with intellectual disabilities.  When he moved to Oregon in 2001 he was eager to provide the same opportunities to his students and began looking for ways for them to participate. Robert got involved with Special Olympics Oregon 8 ½ years ago when he learned about SOOR’s inclusive school-based program while working at Bend High School as a Life Skills Teacher. 

Oregon was one of the initial states to spearhead the Unified philosophy for youth and Robert wanted his students to be able to participate in this opportunity right away.  Bend High School is now in its 8th year of involvement and has one of the largest and most successful Unified School programs in the state, much of which is due to Robert’s incredible passion and determination to sustain such vital programming for his students.

The culture and mission of Special Olympics Oregon has become a very big part of Robert’s teaching and coaching approach.  “I use the Special Olympics Oath which is posted in my classroom – ‘Let me win, But if I cannot win, Let me be brave in the attempt.’  This statement rings so true because you are never going to always win, but it is the effort and collective desire to do ones best that rings true for athletes and unified partners.  They buy into it and try their best each time they compete,” says Tadjiki.

A favorite Special Olympics Oregon memory that Robert has is from a Unified Spring Soccer tournament two years ago.  His students really wanted to play soccer and they went up against school teams from the Portland area.  “The action was so intense and the competition so level – it was truly impressive,” says Tadjiki.  This past fall Robert’s students also hosted an informational clinic to educate other schools in Central Oregon.  “We were able to personally recruit Sisters High School and we have organized basketball and softball games against them.  It has been thrilling to share the benefits of Special Olympics with more students and families!”

When asked what motivates him to stay involved with Special Olympics Oregon, Robert says that each time he goes to a tournament – win or lose, he sees the joy on the faces of his students.  “The camaraderie that is established by these young adults by being on teams is simply wonderful!”

In addition to his involvement with Special Olympics Oregon, Robert is the co-founder and a board member for Education for Chinese Orphans (EChO), which starts schools for special-needs orphans in China.  Robert and his wife Stephanie have been married for 20 years and have four children: Cyrus – 16, Jasper – 14, Maya – 13 and Ella – 10.  Outside of teaching and coaching, Robert enjoys mountain biking and cross country skiing with friends.  He also enjoys worshiping with his church regularly on Sunday’s. 

Special Olympics Oregon is privileged to have such an incredible educator, mentor and coach like Robert Tadjiki.  Thank you Robert, for being a leader and advocate for the Unified movement and for all that you do to provide meaningful opportunities to your students!

April Athlete Spotlight

Apr 12, 2016 • Athlete, Basketball, Softball, Special Olympics, unified sports

April Athlete Spotlight: Jeremy Blodgett, Youth Unified Program

Jeremy Blodgett has been involved with Special Olympics Oregon for 6 years, and currently is in his last year with the Youth Unified Program. He has transformed himself from a quiet, withdrawn individual to a team leader with a competitive but fun nature.  He enjoys sports but is especially fond of basketball where he led his team in scoring averaging 20 plus points per game at the regional Youth Unified Basketball tournament at Oregon State University.

According to his coaches,  “It is not that Jeremy is a ball hog but he just knows to go to the low post area where his teammates are aware that he  shoots a very high percentage.  Jeremy’s role of the go to guy at the offense end of the court has earned him the nickname “The Money Man”.

In softball Jeremy has a knack for getting on base.  Once he gets on base, he is a talented base runner and last season led the Sutherlin Blue Thunder in the number of runs scored.  He is a great teammate and friend.  He loves to cheer on his team when he is not in the game.   He is a crowd favorite because of his fun nature.

Jeremy loves playing video games and watching Jim Carey movies when he is at home with his twin brother Justin, his older brother Derick and his mom and dad. Thank you Jeremy for always having fun and playing hard.

January Athlete Spotlight

Jan 11, 2016 • Athlete, unified sports

Hasan Amhaz, Forest Grove High School

Hasan began participating in Special Olympics in the 4th grade, when Unified Sports was first offered in Oregon.  Now in his 9th year as a Special Olympics Oregon athlete, Hasan competes year round in Unified soccer, Unified basketball, Unified softball, Unified track and Unified bowling with Forest Grove High School’s Unified program.  His favorite sport is basketball and he says that he loves the people he meets while he is competing.  He looks forward to each practice and game and is devastated when a season ends.  Hasan is a great motivator for his teams and loves getting them pumped up for the next game.

At Forest Grove High School, Hasan is well known for his enthusiasm and friendly personality.  You can often find Hasan cheering for his fellow Forest Grove High School Viks (Vikings) at a sporting event.  Hasan is also very involved in many other inclusive school activities, including ASB Leadership Unity Rep for 2015-2016, selected by his peers to be the 2015 Homecoming King, presents to local elementary schools about the R-Word, is an active member in Unified Theater, and don’t forget his 4 straight appearances in his school’s Lip Sync Assembly!  He has also attended SOOR Youth Leadership Summits and has participated in Youth Games at Nike for the past 9 years. 

Last year Hasan represented his school at the Oregon Association of Student Councils (OASC) spring leadership conference where he was the first student with an intellectual disability to attend.  He was invited back to attend the OASC fall conference to help facilitate workshops to encourage students to create inclusive leadership opportunities at their schools for students with intellectual disabilities. 

SOOR has been an instrumental part in Hasan's life.  Through his experiences he has become a great leader and student. Hasan started as a shy 4th grader who had a difficult time making it through the day.  Now he shows up to school each day looking forward to practice.  He has gained numerous friends through SOOR who he couldn't live without.  You'll see him walking down the hall high fiving his teammates and friends!  Hasan’s biggest accomplishment has been being selected as the Unity Rep for Forest Grove High School.  In a school of 2000 students, this speaks volumes to his efforts as a leader and the inspiration he is to others.  One of his favorite moments is when he was announced Homecoming King and the crowd began chanting, “Hasan, Hasan, Hasan…” 

When Hasan isn’t participating in Unified Sports or other activities, he enjoys Fishing, playing X-Box, going to sporting events and spending time with friends.  In 2014 he received an award for his fishing efforts! 

Forest Grove High School will never be the same because of the positive impact Hasan has made!  Thanks to SOOR and the opportunities it provides Hasan, he has gained the confidence to be a leader and role model for unity!  We continue to be inspired by Hasan’s hilarious and energetic personality and his outstanding leadership on and off the field.

January Volunteer Spotlight

Jan 11, 2016 • Volunteer, unified sports, Polar Plunge

Mica Annis, Glencoe High School

During the summer leading into her freshman year at Glencoe High School, Mica Annis attended a leadership camp where she learned about the Polar Plunge.  She immediately became interested in getting involved with Special Olympics Oregon and supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Once school started, she hit the ground running with excitement to get her school involved in the Polar Plunge.  Now a senior, Mica has been Glencoe’s Polar Plunge captain for the past 4 years and has expanded her involvement with SOOR and her passion for advocating for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

As a freshman, Mica coached an elementary Unified basketball team and quickly realized the impact that sport can have for individuals with intellectual disabilities, especially youth.  She specifically worked with two youth basketball players who had low skills and never scored a basket.  At their last game of the season, one of the players was passed the ball and their entire team came together to help her score her first basket.  This experience helped Mica realize the power of sport and the true spirit of Special Olympics. 

“Yes, there is a competitive aspect, but Special Olympics is more about coming together and helping each other succeed.  This is really exciting to be a part of,” says Mica. 

After coaching, Mica played a valuable role in starting a Unified Sports program at Glencoe High School.  She even participated as a Unified Partner on their Unified soccer team one year.   Mica says that Unified Sports has truly helped herself and her peers develop relationships with students with intellectual disabilities.  When asked what has been the most powerful part of her involvement with Unified Sports, Mica said, “Seeing how much Unified Sports and Special Olympics can help people and integrate them into society, develop friendships and build confidence.”

Special Olympics Oregon is not the only thing that Mica is passionate about, her list of involvements is quite outstanding for an 18 year old.  Mica is currently the Student Body President and Key Club President at Glencoe High School.  She is also a member of multiple organizations, including the Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council, Youth Advisory Board for World Affairs Council of Oregon, and an Ambassador to the State Capital for the Oregon Association of Student Councils.  In addition to these roles, Mica has also been a leader for SOOR by facilitating multiple workshops about the Polar Plunge at various leadership conferences and events for youth.  Last summer Mica interned at the SOOR state offices and was a huge help in assisting with projects, events, and presentations.

One of Mica’s favorite experiences throughout her SOOR involvement has been building Glencoe’s participation in the Polar Plunge.  The first year only 5 students joined Glencoe’s team, but last year there were 35 students that took the Plunge with Mica.  “It’s exciting to see how much it has grown and how many people care about the cause and are passionate about it,” says Mica.

After graduation this spring, Mica plans to attend college and pursue a degree in International Studies and minor in Women’s Studies.  She then hopes to acquire a law degree and work on civil and human rights to advocate for equality and basic human needs.

Thank you for being such a dedicated advocate and supporter for Special Olympics Oregon, Mica.  Your passion, leadership, and commitment to promoting inclusion is an inspiration to us all, especially our youth leaders and athletes!

SOOR Unified Timbers took part in this year's Cascadia Challenge as part of the Timbers vs. Sounders Rivalry Weekend

Sep 03, 2014 • soccer, unified sports, Seattle Sounders FC, Portland Timbers

Special Olympics Oregon Timbers Unified soccer team from Woodburn High School, with guest player – SOOR athlete Levi Arthur.

On August 23, 2014, Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) Timbers Unified Soccer team from Woodburn High School competed in the 2nd leg of the Cascadia Challenge, held at the adidas Village. They competed against the Special Olympics Washington (SOWA) Sounders, with the SOOR Timbers taking the win 6-1!

The event was part of the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC rivalry weekend. Both Special Olympics unified teams were comprised of individuals with intellectual disabilities playing alongside teammates without intellectual disabilities.

The next day, both teams participated in a pre-game exhibition match, with the SOOR team winning 3-2, at the Timbers vs. Sounders game at Providence Park where they received tons of support and motivation from Timbers Army.

For many of the Woodburn High School partners and athletes, this was their first experience attending a Timbers game, let alone playing on the Timbers field and meeting the players! This was an incredible experience that they are sure to remember.

Visit the Project Unify website for more information about SOOR Unified Sports.

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