His name is 'Bun.' At least that's what his sister Kym lovingly calls him. Kym was my college roommate and 'Bun' was my first real introduction to someone with intellectual disabilities.
As Kym (Marshall) went on to pursue a career in education, I went on to continue what I'd studied at Arizona State University. The job took me to Los Angeles where I was invited to an event. It was hosted by a broadcaster I'd idolized, Maria Shriver. Her mother, Eunice Shriver, founded Special Olympics. That was my introduction to Special Olympics.
At Shriver's Pier Del Sol benefit I met passionate parents. I met accomplished athletes. I met Dustin Plunkett. Dustin is now a Global Messenger and Board Member for Special Olympics World Games being held this weekend in Los Angeles. Over the years he's won 200 medals in Special Olympics games!
When I met up with Plunkett for an interview this week he greeted me with a great big hug and his ever-engaging smile. Dustin informed me he'll serve as an ESPN analyst for the game.
I interviewed volunteers. Trisha Gonsowski is a delegate liaison and will hang with one of the teams during their L.A. visit. Gustavo Moreno has lived in L.A. for decades but is thrilled to work with athletes from his native Bolivia. Mary Cates, the mom of my godson, is volunteering. Thirty-thousand people are volunteering their time for these extra-ordinary games
Teams from 177 countries are taking part. You might have to look at a map to find Faroe Islands, or Cote d'lvoire, or Curacao. The World Games are certainly bringing to world together! At arrivals, athletes from Egypt poured out of a bus and erupted into a team cheer. Athletes from Ecuador crowded around to get in on a group picture. Women from the United Arab Emirates gave me a high-five as they entered Loyola Marymount.
How can you play a role? Sit in the stands and cheer! Dustin Plunkett assures me the rewards come both ways. Fans will witness emotional moments and L.A. pride.
As I posted a picture with a female athlete on my Instagram page (DevineNews) my college roommate posted back. "So proud of you Devine" she wrote. If anything, she can be proud of her role in teaching me compassion and understanding for people with intellectual disabilities. Kym is now a top Arizona educator with an expertise in children with special needs. "So proud of YOU, Kym, and, as L.A. hosts the World Games, I'm thinking of you and Bun (Brad)!"
For information on the games and activities go to www.LA2015.org