A delegation of Special Olympics Vermont representatives will travel to Austria this month to take part in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Every two years, the world transcends the boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, culture and religion to come together for the Special Olympics World Games. Alternating between summer and winter Games, this event is the flagship event of the Special Olympics movement, which promotes equality, tolerance and acceptance around the world.
Kicking off the World Games experience is Bruce Merriam, an officer with the Stowe Police Department. Bruce is the Co-Director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Vermont and is active in fundraising and advocacy initiatives. Nearly a year ago, he applied and was selected to be a part of the Torch Run leading into the World Games. Bruce reports that, "I'm having an awe-inspiring Final Leg experience. Incredible! Our leg includes 100 runners broken into ten teams of ten including a captain and a Special Olympics athlete. I am on team #2. My team members are law enforcement personnel from Alaska, Alberta, Antigua, Austria, California, Costa Rica, Latvia, Montana, and New Zealand."
Mike White will travel to Austria with Special Olympics USA as a cross country ski coach. Mike has been coaching Special Olympics Vermont athletes for twenty years in the Bennington program and has both national and international coaching experience. He traveled to Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2013 to coach cross country skiing in the last Special Olympics World Winter Games, and to New Jersey in 2014 as Vermont's Delegation Leader for the Special Olympics USA Summer Games. In 2015, Mike was a finalist for the Special Olympics North America Coach of the Year award. "We believe he is hands down one of the finest coaches in all of Special Olympics," says a co-coach. "Mike is firmly dedicated to Special Olympics and every athlete he comes into contact with. He has excelled at every level, from Unified Partner, to Assistant Coach, to Head Coach. We wish him the best of luck in Austria!"
Sam Donnelly, 20, of Burlington is one of just fifty youth leaders from around the globe selected to take part in the Special Olympics Social Impact Summit in Graz, Austria in March of 2017. The six-day summit is a gathering of Generation Unified leaders who have applied with specific project proposals to be part of the summit and engage with global change mentors who will help them turn ideas into impact. Sam is a first year student at the University of Vermont and has been active in the Special Olympics movement as a Unified partner, volunteer, intern, coach, and now president of the Special Olympics College Club on the UVM campus.
Erin Robillard is an educator at Burlington High School where she also leads the Unified Champion Schools movement. Erin will travel to Austria to participate in the Youth Summit as Sam Donnelly's mentor.
Holly has served as Special Olympics Vermont's volunteer Venue Director for alpine skiing and snowboarding at the state Winter Games for twenty seven years. Holly was selected to volunteer in the alpine skiing venue in Austria for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games.