By Brianna Pereira
Brandon Harrington, an athlete for more than 20 years with Special Olympics, does not let a setback derail his love of sports and competition.
Brandon, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, also had immense pain in his legs at 5 years old. It was later discovered that he had legg-calve-perthes, a childhood hip disorder initiated by a disruption of blood flow to the head of the femur. This meant that Brandon experienced a severe trauma to his hips, which led him to be put into a cast to realign his hips.
Ten years later, Brandon was playing basketball for Special Olympics when he noticed the pain had returned. Instructed by medical professionals, Brandon was not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities that demanded intense cardio, which unfortunately meant giving up basketball. However, Brandon did not let that stop him from pursuing softball, bocce, and bowling.
He enjoys those sports, while his supportive father, Tim (member of the Special Olympics Southern California board), and his uncle, Matt, coach him from the dugout and sidelines.
The 35-year-old shortstop and his Ventura County Conejo Crushers softball teammates took home the gold at last year’s Fall Games.
“Special Olympics is a winner, and the whole family is involved because of it,” his father said.
Brandon grew up with a well-versed athletic background. His sisters, McKenna and Courtney, take part in competitive dance and softball, respectively, and Courtney eventually went on to become a softball coach. Encouraged by his sisters’ competitive spirit, Brandon joined Little League with the Tri-Valley Mini Meets.
Taking notice of his potential, Brandon’s father, along with some other friends, started a Challenger League team for children with disabilities that allowed them to play more competitively. When Tim heard about Special Olympics, he found that it would provide the best opportunity for Brandon to apply his talents.
Because of Special Olympics, Brandon also has gained more confidence and learned responsibility. Most importantly, it has taught him the value of being a teammate.
“I have good friends, a good team,” Brandon said.
As for his Down Syndrome, Brandon has used it to his advantage. With an incredible ability to imitate others, Brandon has been able to stand out from the competition.
“He just has this unbelievable arm, that puts everyone else to shame,” Tim proudly said.
Brandon continues to excel away from sports, too. Working as the head clerk at Vons, he has taken initiative to put all his effort into his work. From putting the carts away to getting to know frequent customers, Brandon makes sure that operations are top-notch while also bringing an element of authenticity to his job.
“Whether you are a customer at Vons or a person at the airport, everyone knows Brandon,” Tim said.
“[Special Olympics is] not just about sports, it’s about the ability to interact. Seeing firsthand the social interaction with these athletes… it’s just a wonderful thing.”
Inside the SOSC is a blog managed by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.