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Special Olympics Oregon Athlete Super Plungers

Mar 14, 2017 • Athlete, Polar Plunge, Super Plunge

Over 3,000 people braved the frigid waters across the state as part of the 2017 Polar Plunge, raising over $500,000 for SOOR participants!

One group, the Super Plungers, took plunging to the extreme and dared to plunge 24 times in 24 hours. Together, these superheros raised $73,496!

For the first time, four Special Olympics Oregon participants joined the Super Plunger legacy, making this year's Super Plunge even more inspiring than ever.

Here is a Q & A with each of our Special Olympics Athlete Super Plungers:

Name: Bjorn King
Age: 25
County:  Washington County
Favorite Sport: Basketball

Q. Why did you decide to participate as a Super Plunger?
A. It sounded fun to me and I was excited to get to know everyone who was there. I was paired up with a police officer named TJ.  He acted as my unified partner for the plunge, so that was a bonus.

Q. Each plunge has a theme. Which plunge was your favorite?
A. There were a lot of themes, but I will have to go with animals because my costume was great. I was a big bear. My name actually means bear in Danish so I connected with the theme. I also chose the 70’s theme because I thought it would be funny.

Q. Do you think the experience has made a positive impact on you?
A. Yes. I made strong relationships with fellow Super Plungers that I hope will always remain.

(Left to Right: Bjorn, Cheyanne, key volunteer Diego, Jenny, and Jonathan.)

Name: Cheyanne West
Age: 22
County: Multnomah County
Favorite Sport: Power Lifting

Q. Can you explain what the Super Plunge is?
A. A Super Plunger is a person who jumps into the Columbia River 24 times in 24 hours, on the hour, to raise money for Special Olympics Oregon athletes, such as myself. This year was the first year that we had unified partners for the plunge. I got paired up with an officer named Andy who works for the Portland Police Bureau. We were unified partners in plunging.

Q. What was your favorite memory of the plunge?
A. My favorite memory was right before our last plunge. I thanked Andy for being my partner and friend.  I have had bad experiences in the past with the police, but he made me realize that they are amazing people who are just doing their very difficult jobs.  The officers then gathered around me and gave me a huge hug. I felt really happy to thank them and to gain new friends!

Q. What is the one thing a Super Plunger cannot live without during the 24 hrs?
A. A big comfy blanket. It gets so cold and the first thing I wanted to do after being in the river was jump into my warm blanket!  I kept it by the heater the whole time so it would be warm.


Name:  Jenny Hill
Age: 30
County:  Marion County
Favorite Sport: Bocce

Q. What was your favorite memory of the plunge?
A. I had a Super Plunge unified partner who was a fireman from Portland. His name was Laurent and he was amazing. He has become a very good friend to me and I hope we stay friends for a really long time.  I used to be scared of fireman, but now he has changed that for me.  Overall, I loved making new friends and hanging out with the staff, athletes and plungers. They are like family to me.  It was all a great memory.

Q. How did you feel once you completed the 24 Plunges in 24 hours?
A. It was truly amazing. I felt inspired and the experience made me feel like I did something right. I felt that God put this in my heart for me to do for other people. Once I completed this, I knew I achieved something big. I don’t usually get opportunities like this, so doing this was a once in a lifetime opportunity I will never forget.

Q. Would you Super Plunge again?
A. Pick me, pick me! I would not turn down that offer, no way! You will see me next year for sure.

Name: Jonathan Shockey
Age: 27
County: Washington County
Favorite Sport: Basketball

Q. How did you feel once you completed the 24 Plunges in 24 hours?
A. It felt so good to finish all the plunges.  I felt very proud of myself and said to myself, “I can’t believe I done it! it made me want to cry with joy.

Q. What was your favorite memory of the plunge?
A. My favorite memory was seeing everyone in their costumes for the 70’s plunge because people looked so silly and funny. It was hilarious. I enjoyed it all because it was the best fun I have had in ages. The whole Super Plunge is one of my favorite memories ever.

Q. Do you think the experience has made a positive impact on you?
A. Yes. I made friends and was around many different people the whole weekend. At first I was shy, but by the end of the plunge I was friends with everyone and knew I would miss them once it was finished.

May Athlete Spotlight

May 09, 2016 • Athlete, Unifie, Project UNIFY

May Athlete Spotlight: Cameron Ray

Cameron first got involved in Special Olympics Oregon two years ago during his freshman year at Bend Senior High School when he participated in their Unified Sports program.  He participates year round in Unified soccer, Unified basketball and Unified softball.

When Cameron began he was very enthusiastic about sports, but had some growing to do in learning to be a team player.  Since then his teachers and coaches say that Cameron’s growth has been outstanding.  “When we see him at practice or on the playing field he is encouraging other players, participating in practices, and supporting his team,” said Robert Tadjiki, Life Skills Teacher and Unified Sports Coach at Bend Senior High School. 

The leadership and compassion that Cameron exhibits to his teammates is admirable.  At the Unified Basketball tournament that his team recently competed at, one of the players was very upset about missing several baskets.  Cameron took the time to go and encourage the other player to the point that the other player continued to play. 

“Cameron has come a long way from the freshman who had difficulty being a team player, to now being a tremendous asset to our teams,” said Coach Tadjiki.

We are inspired and proud to have Cameron as a Special Olympics Oregon athlete!

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.

Winter Season Pride In Performance Award Recipients

Mar 15, 2016 • sports, Winter, Pride In Performance, Athlete, Volunteer

Winter Snow Sports Les Schwab Pride in Performance Volunteer Award Recipient: Sue Wallace, Local Program Coordinator for Multnomah County

Sue has many friends and supporters, one of the biggest being her daughter, Emily, who is also a Special Olympics Oregon volunteer.

Sue's first exposure to  Special Olympics Oregon was as a spectator watching her son, Matt, compete as a Special Olympics Oregon athlete. When Matt started skiing, the whole family became more involved and Sue was right there not only cheering for him but for everyone!  You could tell she believed in each and every athlete. Emily said, "You could see her big heart and compassion shining through."

She was hooked on Special Olympics and just four years later she became the Local Program Coordinator for Multnomah County- almost 14 years ago!

She puts in endless hours of her time; coordinating practice facilities, making travel arrangements, securing coaches, managing athletes, organizing fundraisers, managing finances, ordering equipment and uniforms, and so much more.

Her dedication is undeniable. Sue had surgery four days before Summer State Games one year,  but instead of staying home to recuperate  she was in Newberg checking on athletes and coaches, as well as cheering in the stands. There’s just no stopping her!

When you talk about someone who puts their heart and soul into their work, Sue is the perfect example. She truly inspires the people around her to do their best and be their best.


Winter Snow Sports Les Schwab Pride in Performance Athlete Award Recipient: Danny Wells of Eugene/Springfield

Danny has been participating with Special Olympics Oregon for more than 10 years, competing in downhill skiing, golf and basketball.

His coach, Michael, said with great pride, “Besides Dan's skills improving over time in both golf and skiing, what I think is more important is his improvement in his ability to handle the aspects of competition, to win with humility and graciousness, to support his fellow athletes in their endeavors, whether it be congratulating them on their victories or consoling them in their time of need.”

“He accepts with dignity that although he gave his best, sometimes it falls short.  He is always ready to get out there and try again.”

Not only does Danny shine in sports competitions, but he has also been involved in many fundraisers for the local program, including the Polar Plunge and Tip-a-Cop events. He is a great member in the community and has worked at Columbia Distributors for the past 10 years.

He is a great friend to all his fellow athletes and a positive influence on teams in which he is a part of.



Winter Indoor Sports Les Schwab Pride In Performance Athlete Award Recipient: Juan Palacios, McMinnville High School

Juan has been participating with Special Olympics Oregon for five years in basketball, soccer and golf.

His coach has watched his skills develop in soccer and basketball and says he works hard and plays hard. In 2013, he received an athletic award for unified soccer. Juan is also a great cheerleader for his teammates and is always sharing words of encouragement from the sidelines. He is always happy, has a great attitude and takes a lot of pride in whatever he is doing.

Outside of Special Olympics, Juan volunteers his time at a local youth group and supports many Veteran’s Day events in the community. He was also voted prince for the Sophomore homecoming court at his high school!

Juan is a caring young man to anyone he knows and to those he may not know, and is always willing to lend a helping hand.





Winter Indoor Sports Les Schwab Pride In Performance Volunteer Award Recipient: Brigette Brown, Hillsboro School District

Brigette has been involved with Special Olympics Oregon for over 7 years. She is an adaptive PE Teacher for Hillsboro School District and has spearheaded many of the Unified programs throughout the district, including basketball and softball teams at elementary, middle and high schools.

Brigette has devoted many hours to recruiting athletes and partners, training coaches, arranging practices,  coordinating facilities, tracking paperwork and managing multiple teams throughout the school year.

To add to her list of roles, she has also coached many of these teams herself! She is a great advocate and resource for her students and athletes. Many of the assistant coaches that she has recruited for elementary and middle school teams are high school students, which has provided them with a meaningful opportunity to work with and learn about individuals with intellectual disabilities.

She has devoted so much of her time to ensure that young people with and without intellectual disabilities are provided with meaningful and inclusive sports opportunities so they can build friendships, develop physical fitness and feel included and accepted. Her hard work and strenuous efforts have greatly attributed to the success of many of Hillsboro School District’s Unified programs.

Special Olympics Oregon is extremely privileged to have Brigette as a volunteer, coach and an advocate for the Unified movement in schools throughout Oregon.

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.

Athlete Spotlight: Sierra Bigelow

Nov 04, 2015 • Athlete

Athlete Spotlight: Sierra Bigelow

Sierra Bigelow has been involved in Special Olympics Oregon for years and loves competing in athletics(track and field) and bowling. Sierra has grown a tremendous amount since getting involved in Special Olympics and her enthusiasm and positive attitude truly shine.

"How great is it to see someone blossom right in front of your very eyes as the season progresses," says Sierra's coach, Ronni.

Before getting involved with Special Olympics, "my life was real quiet," says Sierra, but now "I like being with other people more and I like having FUN! It makes me feel good. I smile and I laugh a LOT."

Athletics (track and field) has been her biggest accomplishment. "I learned I could do it and I could be a winner... I like working with my team a LOT and I have made good friends." While she enjoys making friends and doing her best, it always feels good when the hard work pays off; Sierra's favorite memory is winning all three medals! When Sierra is not training and competing in Special Olympics, she loves to write and listen to music.

Sierra is a hard working Special Olympics Oregon athlete who lives by a fantastic motto; do your best. We are inspired by her joyful outlook and willingness to never give up.

April Athlete and Volunteer of the Month

Apr 03, 2015 • Athlete, Volunteer

Pictured (Left to right): Lyall Arey, Athlete of the Month; Mark and Kristi Smalley, Volunteers of the Month.


April Athlete of the Month: Lyall Arey from the Hermiston/Pendleton Local Program

Lyall is 21 years old and has been participating in Special Olympics since 2010. In the past 5 years Lyall has made some great friendships with his fellow athletes and has had a positive impact on the local program.

He truly enjoys training and competing with his teammates in the 3 B’s of sports…basketball, bocce and bowling. He is especially proud that he and a fellow teammate trained hard and competed well -- taking home a gold medal -- at the bocce regional in Sherwood last year.

Lyall lives with his mom and dad in Hermiston and enjoys spending time with his family.

When Lyall isn’t competing, he enjoys being supportive of the other bocce athletes. His coaches say they are very appreciative of Lyall’s team player spirit and attitude. He exemplifies what it is to be a Special Olympics Oregon athlete in both his actions and camaraderie with others.

It is quite fitting that Lyall is being recognized as the April Athlete of the Month because his birthday is this month too…so Happy Birthday, and Congratulations to Lyall!


April Volunteers of the Month: Kristi and Mark Smalley of the Hermiston/Pendleton Local Program

There are TWO Volunteers of the Month for April… Mark and Kristi Smalley, a husband and wife team, from Hermiston.

Kristi and Mark have been involved with Special Olympics Oregon for over ten years. They originally became involved in Special Olympics Oregon because their daughter, Jillian, began participating as an athlete with the Hermiston/Pendleton local program.

Kristi is fond of saying, she’s just her daughter’s activities director, but she is WAY more than that! Through the years Kristi has held several positions on the local program management team, and is currently the Communications Manager. She is also a long-time head coach with experience in bowling, bocce and basketball. In addition, Kristi plans and coordinates the annual golf tournament and Comedy night fundraiser events for the local program. If that weren’t enough, Kristi is also the local key point of contact for the bowling regional in Hermiston. She assists Special Olympics Oregon staff with the planning, coordination, setup, opening ceremonies, recruiting and training of volunteers, and helps to make sure everything runs smoothly during the event…she is critical to the success of this bowling regional!

Mark works closely with Kristi and is always there to do whatever needs to be done. He is a very respected and knowledgeable year-round coach. In fact, two years ago Mark took the lead on preparing the Hermiston/Pendleton basketball team for their first regional competition. It took a lot of hard work and coordination to make this happen, but Mark did an exceptional job and the teams had an amazing competition experience, thanks to him. Mark also volunteered to start and coach a golf program in Hermiston last year -- another first for their local program. All the golfers did a fantastic job at the regional competition and summer state games and they’ll be back again this year. Mark’s a true leader and role model for the Hermiston/Pendleton program.

Together, Kristi and Mark, are valued and valuable members of the Special Olympics Oregon family and are VERY deserving of being honored as the April Volunteers of the Month!!!



March Athlete and Volunteer of the Month!

Mar 12, 2015 • Athlete, Volunteer

        Athlete of the Month: Brian McKrola of Grant County            Volunteer of the Month: Jeff Porter

March Athlete of the Month

Brian McKrola has been participating in Special Olympics Oregon for over 20 years. Throughout the years, Brian has trained and competed in bowling, basketball, athletics, aquatics and skiing. He enjoys attending practices and spending time with his teammates. He always encourages and supports his team and other athletes. Brian also loves competing, as well as the travel and camaraderie that go along with these events.

When Brian is not at Special Olympics, he has several jobs in his local town of John Day. He works at SueZQ’s Thriftstore, JD Rents Power and Equipment, and Nugget Lanes. He has an amazing work ethic and always does his very best!

Although his work and practice schedule keep him busy, in his free time Brian likes to watch movies and spend time with family and friends. He is truly a people person and gets along with everyone. He also enjoys attending and participating in community events throughout the year.

Two of Brian’s favorite things in the whole world are superheros…and Special Olympics! Brian makes a positive difference on his sports teams and within his community. Let’s congratulate Brian on being selected as the March Athlete of the Month!


March Volunteer of the Month

Jeff Porter has been involved with Special Olympics Oregon for more than a decade and has worn many hats.  However, many recognize Jeff by his favorite red hat which he likes to wear to events so that people can pick him out of the crowd. 

He has become a fixture on many Games Organizing Committees - serving in management roles at basketball, bocce, soccer and bowling competitions.   During his time with SOOR, Jeff has volunteered at least once in nearly every sport we offer.  He is a proven, dependable leader that staff, volunteers, coaches and athletes have come to trust and admire.   

When asked what he likes most about Special Olympics Oregon, Jeff explains, “There are a lot of great things, but above all the sportsmanship that the athletes exhibit is amazing.  No matter how intense the competition gets, the respect and support that the athletes show on and off the field is truly inspirational!”

Thank you, Jeff, for all that you do for Special Olympics Oregon!



September Volunteer & Athlete of the Month

Sep 05, 2014 • Volunteer, Athlete

Pictured:  Becky Venice of Cottage Grove; Remy Spangler of Union County

Athlete of the Month: Remy Spangler, Union County

22 year old Remy Spangler, a Special Olympics Oregon participant with the Union County local program, has been involved in Special Olympics for 10 years.

During this time, Remy has participated in aquatics, athletics, golf, and his favorite sport to train and compete in, cross country skiing.

In his spare time, Remy enjoys traveling, camping with his friends and family, and works as a custodian in the La Grande School District.

Special Olympics has changed Remy's life in many ways. His coaches have noticed he is more outgoing, has developed physically and emotionally, and he has gained more confidence in himself.

His mom Ellie, a Special Olympics Oregon coach and volunteer, said that Remy was very quiet and introverted, but that he has grown into an engaging and friendly young man who shows great sportsmanship, is supportive of his teammates, and is more independent.


Volunteer of the Month: Becky Venice, Cottage Grove

For the past 35 years, Becky Venice, Cottage Grove Local Program Coordinator, has dedicated her life to developing the Special Olympics program in Cottage Grove.

Becky grew up in Peru, Indiana, and she and her husband Robert met there and came to Cottage Grove in 1964. Her involvement in Special Olympics began when their daughter, Monica, was born in 1965 with Down’s syndrome.

In 1973, Monica began taking part in Special Olympics at school in Eugene, but when the schools dropped the program, Becky decided she needed to organize their own program in Cottage Grove with only 8- 10 participants at the time. She knew the impact that athletics had on the intellectually disabled, and as a school bus driver she was able to communicate this to the families as well. Since then the program has grown, and Cottage Grove- Creswell currently has about 40 athletes who participate throughout the year.

Through the inspiration of Monica and seeing how much Special Olympics has meant to her over the years, Becky has been a valuable coach, motivator, and mentor as she continues giving her heart to the athletes and coaches in Cottage Grove.

Becky was selected back in April as the community contributor inductee for the 2014 Cottage Grove High School Hall of Fame, accompanied by a wonderful article about her involvement with Special Olympics.

Read the full article from the Cottage Grove Sentinal.

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