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Special Olympics Athlete Fulfills his Dreams On and Off the Court

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

When Gary, who is Hard of Hearing, was introduced to the Special Olympics of Southern California (SOSC) by his Aunt Joan, he never dreamed that it would lead to his participation in not only their sports programs, but also in working with them.

(Special Olympics of Southern California Regional Director Brian Richter and Gary)

In 2015, Gary joined the SOSC basketball team, which he loves! Playing basketball taught Gary about teamwork and gave him newly found confidence. SOSC provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Gary had to memorize the Special Olympics athlete oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

This oath gave Gary the courage to pursue additional sports with SOSC. Gary practiced a great deal and with each day his confidence and interest in being more independent grew and with that came his desire to be able to better communicate with others.

Gary became intent on learning sign language. He completed all four of the sign language classes offered at Mesa Junior College. Learning sign language opened Gary up to want to pursue additional new opportunities.

When his Aunt Joan then encouraged him to join the Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Paid Internship Program (PIP), Gary had developed the courage he needed to take that step. With the assistance of TMI Senior Division Manager for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing David May, Gary completed the necessary employment paperwork for the SOSC and was invited to meet with their Regional Director Brian Richter. Brian had seen Gary participate in SOSC sporting events and gotten to know him over the last few years. Brian was impressed with Gary and liked the idea of the TMI PIP.

The TMI Supported Employment PIP is designed to encourage competitive integrated employment (CIE) for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, as well as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. CIE is full or part time work for which an individual is paid minimum wage or greater in a setting with others who do not have disabilities. This program is funded through the State of California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) in conjunction with Regional Center. TMI is the agency responsible for administering the program by directly interacting with employers and clients to foster successful outcomes. The purpose of the program is to increase the vocational skills and abilities of clients who choose, via their Individual Program Plan (IPP) process, to participate in an internship. Goals of this program include the acquisition of experience and skills for future paid employment, or for the internship itself to lead to full or part time paid employment in the same job.

Brian presented TMI’s program and Gary as an intern prospect to the SOSC Board of Directors, who also thought it was a great idea! In August 2019, Gary started assisting the SOSC staff with processing paperwork, inventory of warehouse items, and assisting with developing the SOSC Athlete Leadership Program. Gary also occasionally attends offsite Special Olympics events. He is extremely excited about his internship!

“I saw Gary work hard in sports and knew he would bring that same dedication to his position with us,” said Brian. “He’s brought a new energy to our office and is a hard-working, intelligent and thoughtful contributor to our work. We love having Gary on our team!”

Congratulations to Gary on his new found independence and his new position! We are all very proud of you.

“Seeing Gary succeed not only as athlete, but as valued member of the Special Olympics is absolutely wonderful,” said TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris. “Our goal is to assist our clients with being as independent as possible. Gary has proven that with courage and the right support, dreams can come true.”

If you know of a business that could benefit from TMI’s Paid Internship Program, please contact TMI at (800) 877-5452 or email


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. 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.


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