Enjoy all the pics from the games last Saturday! More to come!!! Please feel free to tag! xo
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Katy Sanchez has been living with learning disabilities, including processing delays and speech and language delays, her entire life. But there has not been a single day that this brave woman has let her disabilities bring her down.
“Katy is always smiling,” said Teresa Gilli, Special Olympics New York Director of Development. “She is loving, caring and would do anything to support Special Olympics.”
Katy was born at the West Point Army Hospital in West Point, New York. Prior to her birth, her parents, Susan and Joe Sanchez, were in the military.
After Katy was born, her mother stayed home to take care of her and her older brother. The family spent the next three years living in Germany where Joe was stationed. They then moved to Virginia and Katy worked hard in school.
“Socially, high school was socially very hard for Katy,” said Susan. “But academically she is very smart.”
During her senior year, Katy was looking for a group of people to play sports with in her free time. “I really liked basketball and I was looking for friends to play with,” said Katy. “I found a group at the local high school and I knew right away that I would have a great time playing with them.”
Katy graduated from Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA in 2006. When Katy’s grandfather became ill in 2011, the family moved up to Pearl River, New York to take care of him. Katy was forced to leave her childhood and athletic friends behind. However, her father remained in Virginia.
Even with over 400 miles between them, Katy looked up to her dad as not only a father, but a role model. “He coached me in basketball and through several winning seasons,” said Katy. “He encouraged me to never give up and he was sure I could do anything I put my mind to.”
After having begun with Special Olympics in Virginia in 2007, Katy found a new group to compete with in Rockland County. “It provided a much needed peer group for her,” said Susan. “The opportunities that have come from it have been amazing. It really widened her friend basis, and she became more confident, too.”
But this past September, tragedy struck the Sanchez family when Katy’s father passed away in Virginia. “Katy has had a ton of support from her Special Olympics friends during these rough times,” said Susan.
About the Olympics
The New York Special Olympics program was first formed in 1969. Since then it has flourished into the United States largest program, serving over 64,000 athletes like Katy. From the day Katy began with Special Olympics, she has been practically the definition of an all-around athlete. She started with soccer, and eventually branched out and began to compete in new sports as well. She has trained in numerous sports, including floor hockey, basketball, cycling, golf, and track and field.
“My favorite sport is basketball,” said Katy. “My brother loved the sport and would always play since I was little. So, when I was in the second grade, I would go outside and he taught me how to play. We would play every chance we had and I have loved the sport ever since.”
Today, Katy has competed in these sports all over the world, from the National Games in Nebraska to the Latin American Games in Puerto Rico.
“All of my medals mean a lot to me, but I am most proud of the medals I won at the Latin American Games and the National Games in 2010,” said Katy. “I won bronze for the triathlon in Puerto Rico. In Nebraska, I won two gold medals; one in the 100 meter run, and one in the running long jump. I won the gold in the 100 meter by 0.0004 seconds! I also won silver in the shot put and bronze in the 400 meter run.”
Leading the way
Katy has also played an active role helping to expand and develop Special Olympic groups in the Rockland County area. She recently started a cycling club in Rockland and holds a position as a Global Messenger for Special Olympics.
“I get to talk about Special Olympics and how people can get involved,” said Katy. “I get to tell them my story and talk about all of the things I have accomplished and everything Special Olympics has done for me.”
Katy is also involved in the Best Buddies program.
According to their website, “Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
”The organization was started in 1989 by Anthony Shriver. It has grown from one small, local chapter, to nearly 1,700 chapters across the 50 United States and 50 countries worldwide.
“Katy is always smiling. She is loving, caring and would do anything to support Special Olympics,”
said Teresa Gilli, Special Olympics New York Director of Development.
Katy had the opportunity to compete in and be the Master of Ceremonies at the first Eunice Kennedy Shriver Challenge for the Best Buddies organization. “The Challenge took place in Washington D.C. in October 2010,” said Susan. “There were several different events including bicycling, walking and running. It was a fundraiser for Best Buddies and Special Olympics. Katy introduced Tim and Anthony Shriver, as well as other famous people like Vice President Biden and his wife.”
A tough competitor
Recently, Katy was chosen by the New York Special Olympics staff to compete at the Special Olympics USA Games, which will be held from June 14 to June 21 in Princeton, New Jersey. She will compete in the triathlon for the New York Team. Katy took no time at all to begin preparing for the competition. “I have already started training for the USA Games at Vision Sports Club in Pearl River and the YMCA in Nyack,” said Katy.
“Special Olympics changes lives. Special Olympics changes the lives of those who participate, of those who are affiliated via coaching or volunteering and of those whose perceptions are altered after witnessing the remarkable talents of individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said TJ Nelligan, Chairman & CEO of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in a press release. This labor of love of planning the 2014 USA Games for the past four years has been a privilege. With less than four months to go, we are excited to see the reactions of the nearly 3,500 athletes who will travel to New Jersey for this life-changing event and the anticipated 70,000 spectators who will truly appreciate the impact these athletes make on those around them and to society as a whole.”
From 16 different sports competitions in some of the top sports venues in the state including Princeton University to the creation of a Jersey Shore-themed Olympic Town complete with boardwalk for the athletes, the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase the achievements and determination of Special Olympics athletes nationwide.
However, Katy knows many of her accomplishments would not have been possible without the encouragement of her family, friends, teammates, and especially her first coach, Nancy Julia. “She really made it possible for me to reach my potential and to experience Special Olympics,” said Sanchez. “She signed me up for all of the sports, and I really mean all! She continues to cheer me on and to encourage me to keep going!”
Katy, however, has always returned the encouragement, inspiration and support she has received to others. “She is an inspiration to me and everyone she meets,” said Gilli.
Special Olympics is certainly not the only support that can be found in the Rockland area for those with disabilities. “Rockland County is full of support for special needs,” said Susan. “You just have to know where to look and what program will fit your child the best.”
When she is not dribbling a ball on a basketball court or running around a track, Katy spends her time working with her other passion; animals. “In the 11th grade I started working at Hayfield Animal Hospital,” said Katy. “I loved it. I especially loved working with the staff and the animals.”
After nearly seven years with the Animal Hospital, Katy’s family moved to New York. It did not take long for Katy to find a new home working with animals. She currently works as a pet groomer at PetCo in Rockland County. “I have been there for over a year and love my job,” said Katy. “Everyone is so supportive and they see my abilities, not my disabilities.” For more iformation on this year’s Special Olympics, visit
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Special Olympics New York Global Messenger (Hudson Valley Region)
There have been a bunch of goings-on in the Valley. There is a list of upcoming events located below.
Now that the warmer weather is setting in, events are happening every weekend. It’s a little hectic here, but in a good way. We are looking forward to some awesome track & field events in the next three weeks.
***Please NOTE: Time Trials EAST at Mahopac HighSchool***
REGISTRATION is at 1:30PM and the event will begin at 2PM sharp.
A reminder for folks wishing to attend STATE SUMMER GAMES IN BUFFALO completed nomination forms are DUE in to our office by Friday, 2 May. If you need nomination forms, please email Ellen