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Sam Blake Was a Special Olympics Global Messenger with a Servant’s Heart Who Will be Greatly Missed

Updated: May 20, 2021

Sam working at Balboa Naval Hospital
Sam working at Balboa Naval Hospital

We are deeply saddened to share the passing of our wonderful client Sam Blake. Sam was a Special Olympics athlete for 33 years and won more than 50 medals. He was an all-around athlete and played many sports including soccer, softball, basketball, bocce, skiing, bowling, and swimming.

You would never guess Sam couldn’t speak until he was six years old when you saw him touring with the Special Olympics speaking to hundreds of people at a time. Sam was the Council President for the Special Olympics, San Diego Region and represented Southern California for the honorary 50th Anniversary Voting Ceremony in Sacramento at the State Capital in 2019.

Sam at the Capitol in 2019
Sam at the Capitol in 2019

In addition, Sam looked forward to volunteering at the Torrey Pines Farmer’s Insurance Open golf tournament each year. He would take vacation time from his position as an Environmental Tech at Balboa Naval Hospital, where he worked with the support of his Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Supported Employment Job Coach Andy Palasciano. Sam would wake up at 5am to go to the golf course and drive players’ staff around in a golf cart. He wouldn’t go home until after sunset many days. Sam had the choice to work a half day, but he always wanted to work the full day.

Sam also volunteered at the San Diego Zoo for more than 10 years. He insisted on working the 9am-5pm shift on weekends. Sam stopped volunteering there during the pandemic because they would only allow him to volunteer for four hours at a time due to the limited capacity rules. He could not do anything half-hearted. Sam was either all in or not in at all.

Named a Change it Up Champion by San Diego News 8, Sam was known as a big teddy bear with a heart of gold. Watch Sam’s inspiring video HERE.

Sam was born in College Station, Texas. The home of Texas A&M. He was in the ICU after he was born due to a stroke and was in the hospital for three months. He and his family left Texas when he was a boy. Sam went to middle school and high school in Ithaca, New York. He went on to work at Cornell University as a janitor before moving to San Diego eleven years ago.

“I can hear Sam’s hearty laugh now when I think of him,” said Andy. “I will really miss him.”

Andy wrote this poem in Sam’s honor:

The Herald

Sam was a Global Messenger,

a promoter of peace.

Sam met Eunice in a dream,

the founder who started

events in her backyard

in Washington D.C., “Camp Shriver”.

Rosemary was the catalyst.

A dream began.

Sam had medals from childhood

to adulthood.

Sam had a servant’s heart. He would

volunteer long hours

while he was on vacation from work.

He received the honor of representing

Southern California

in Sacramento.

The State Senate handed Sam the

honorary award for the 50 Year Anniversary

of the Special Olympics.

Sam loved to recite the creed,

“Let me win and if I can’t win, let me

brave in the attempt.”

Sam was a Global Messenger a promoter of peace.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem, Andy. Our condolences to you and Sam’s family. May Sam rest in peace.

Sam doing what he loved
Sam doing what he loved

(Thank you to Andy for contributing to this story during this difficult time and for being a wonderful TMI Job Coach.)


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.

1 Comment

Sam was a great man and he will be missed.

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