Ask Special Olympics Southern California athlete Monica Lopez what her favorite sport is, and she will say volleyball. Ask her about the best part of Special Olympics; she will answer bowling. Ask her what else she likes to do; she will answer swimming for Special Olympics Ventura County.
From there, it is clear she loves to compete, and she can’t get enough, so much so mom, Wanda Lopez, has lost track of the miles on her car.
“She has been everywhere. I’ve lost track of everywhere we’ve gone,” said Wanda.
Monica also plays softball. She’s played basketball and ran track, too. Sports isn’t all she does, though. She is a Global Messenger, who speaks on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities. She works at a local restaurant in her hometown of Thousand Oaks. And she can’t get enough. Asked what else she likes to do other than sports, she answered, “I want a night job.”
That was news to Wanda. “We have to figure that one out, but she always finds a way.”
Monica was born in April 1972 with her twin brother, Rick, at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks. Born with Down syndrome, Monica was involved in programs offered through the recreation and parks district. Through that involvement, they recommended Special Olympics. She has been involved since the age of 10.
“We just kind of went along with everything, and I don’t know what we would do without Special Olympics,” said Wanda. “It is just the two of us. We lost her dad a lot of years ago. If it hadn’t been for Special Olympics, I don’t know how, I just don’t know. Special Olympics is our life.”
Monica has won hundreds of medals playing all the sports she mentioned. When she really started talking, it was volleyball that rose to the top of her list of favorites.
“I love volleyball. I love to serve,” said Monica. “I like sports so I can do something different. Volleyball is something different.”
“Special Olympics is just great. Just seeing the looks on her face when she does something well, even when she doesn’t do something well,” said Wanda. “She always bounces back and keeps on going. Look at her. She is here today being a Global Messenger. It has been mind-blowing.”
Monica has not slowed down a day in her life, and when invited to be a part of SOSC’s latest fundraiser, Pier del Sol, as a Global Messenger, it was yet another milestone in her life.
“She is probably on the low end of the spectrum, so to be invited to be here at Pier del Sol today is very special,” said Wanda. “She had a wonderful time here today. I am so proud of her.”
Asked her favorite food at Pier del Sol, she says she loves the ribs. Then when asked why she liked the ribs, she responded, “I liked all the Italian food, too.”
See, she just can’t get enough.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness. During the month of October, we celebrate people like Monica and make people aware of their abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities, acceptance and inclusion. For more information visit NDSS.org.