Real Change Vendor Harlan Wood wants you to go to the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, in June.
The games run from June 5 to 12 and bring together more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from the United States and Caribbean to compete.
He’s not insisting — if he insists on anything, it is the superiority of the San Francisco 49ers football team, a bold move in and of itself in Seattle — but Wood knows it takes time for people to build up the cash to fly across the country and potentially stay in a hotel or other accommodation.
And there’s a contingent of Seattle athletes who will need cheering on.
“I definitely want to give a shout out to the Seattle Park Sharks teammates that made it,” Wood said. The Seattle Park Sharks team is part of the Seattle Parks and Recreation specialized athletics program.
The Seattle Park Sharks athletes are impressive competitors, Wood said, thinking of a teammate who pitches and hits softballs one handed.
“People with special needs can do anything they want if they set their mind to it,” he said. “There are people out here with special needs who do just that.”
Wood will not be participating in this year’s Special Olympics USA Games, but he has previously held the title of state champion in softball, basketball and track and field and wears his medals with pride. He’s also an avid bowler.
To get to the national games, athletes must get gold in their state events. Then their names are drawn to finalize who will compete in Orlando. Wood said that he was entered into the drawing for bowling, but wasn’t selected.
The games are important to Wood, in part because they’ve taught him a lot, he wrote in a 2018 opinion piece celebrating the games’ arrival in Seattle.
“Special Olympics is something that shows people we’re no different from them,” Wood wrote. “We may have special needs, but we can use a chance to show we can do whatever it takes. We just need a chance to show that we can do whatever it takes.”
He realizes that the coronavirus pandemic continues, but he hopes that the disease will be under control by summer 2022 so that the games can go on safely. But Wood wants people to start thinking about it now and consider cheering on their local athletes.
“It’s time to save up if they want to go,” Wood said.
Read more of the Dec. 1-7, 2021 issue.