Join Joseph’s Journey: Special Olympics Transformed My Life

Editor’s note: “Join Joseph’s Journey” is a blog written by Joseph Gorin, a Special Olympics Southern California athlete and member of SOSC’s Board of Directors. Joseph, who has cerebral palsy, started training and competing with Special Olympics in 2003. Back then, he was a quiet kid who would barely look people in the eyes. Now, through sports training, he’s become a leader who advocates for people with intellectual disabilities throughout the world. This blog is a first-person account of his experiences and pursuit to become accepted by all.

By Joseph Gorin

Special Olympics changes lives, and my life has been transformed since I joined Special Olympics Southern California 16 years ago. My name is Joseph Gorin. I am a great Special Olympics athlete.

When I was 6 months old, my parents received news from my pediatric neurologist that I was born with cerebral palsy, which causes me problems with coordination and sensory integration. My worried parents wondered what kind of capacity I had and where my abilities would take me in life. Today, I will take you on a journey through some of my “wow” moments and share how my life has changed since I became a Special Olympics athlete.

My first “wow” moment was when I received my first speaking assignment as a Special Olympics Sport Ambassador. I walked into a crowded room filled with more than 100 girls and their moms. I was a little bit overwhelmed. Well, I just brought out my million dollar smile and spoke on.

When I first met Kris Drummond at the Special Olympics Orange County office, I just smiled without making any eye contact; then, I put my head down. It was my habit to smile, drop my head and say nothing when people gave me a strange look because they did not understand what I was trying to say. Training as a Sport Ambassador, then later as a Global Messenger where I practice speeches in the Gavel Club, I learned to become a better speaker.  

Another “wow” moment was meeting Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, not just once but twice at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. I was so lucky to be selected as a 2015 World Games Global Messenger, where I was able to advocate for acceptance and inclusion for all. From the announcement of the World Games in 2011 through the Closing Ceremony of the Games on August 2, 2015, I was learning constantly from what kind of speeches to deliver to what groups, proper clothing to wear when attending different events, acceptable behavior, and self-discipline. I gained so much confidence through this experience.

Special Olympics has given me many more learning opportunities, too. Training and competing in sports has taught me sportsmanship, team spirit, responsibility, discipline, and leadership. I also gained many friends.

I wanted to give the same opportunities to all my future Special Olympics athletes in my community so I trained and became a bowling coach. My greatest “wow” moment was when I took my bowling team to their first competition and saw how well they did in their tournament. It made me a very proud coach. 

There are many more “wow” moments, but it will take a few days to share them. In closing, I just want to say: Thank you, Special Olympics, for giving me all these learning opportunities. Thank you for believing in me to get the word out about Special Olympics, acceptance, and inclusion for all. Thank you for trusting that I could be a good coach and leader for our athletes. Lastly, thank you for selecting me for the Board; I will give my utmost effort to carry out my tasks and be a voice of my fellow athletes.

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