by Melanie Barrios
There are many ways to describe Brandon Harrington; he’s funny, approachable, and charismatic, but most importantly, he is loveable. This characteristic speaks volumes about the type of person Brandon is. Born with Down syndrome, Brandon has faced and conquered challenges that would daunt most. His life, a testament to an unwavering determination and an infectious smile, inspires all who know him.
Along with being a Special Olympics Southern California athlete, Brandon works at his local Vons grocery store as the head bag boy. His coworkers and customers adore him for his relentless work ethic and his ability to brighten anyone’s day with a simple smile.
Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions are one of the largest employers of people with intellectual disabilities in the country. Along with hiring, they are the Title sponsor and official food supplier of the Summer Games.
“It’s a great job and great company,” Brandon states.
Given any opportunity, Brandon is enthusiastic to share the magic of Special Olympics with coworkers and customers. Within those moments, he can convince more people to support the organization. In fact, Brandon breaks down how shoppers assist Vons in their support of athletes by donating at checkout during their annual campaign.
A Special Olympics athlete for 20 years, Brandon feels like he has done it all! He participates in bowling and bocce. Yet, it’s on the softball field where Brandon truly shines. His favorite time of the year is when the Special Olympics softball season kicks off. As a proud member of the town’s Special Olympics softball team, Brandon lives for the thrill of the game. What makes this team even more special is the man who leads it – Brandon’s father, Coach Tim.
Tim Harrington sits on the board of Special Olympics Southern California; nonetheless, this is a family affair. His uncle plays a crucial role, standing side by side with Brandon’s father as a coach. Their combined effort ensures that Brandon receives the best guidance, both on and off the field, nurturing his skills and nurturing his spirit. For Brandon’s mother and siblings, support takes on various forms. They stand on the sidelines during practice sessions, cheering him on as he refines his skills, and they never miss a game. In their presence, Brandon feels a surge of motivation and love that fuels his determination to succeed.
Brandon doesn’t merely accept this support; he reciprocates it with profound love and devotion. He understands that his siblings and younger family members have dreams and passions of their own. Just as they show up for him, he, too, stands by their side at their events, whether it be sporting competitions or other endeavors.
Brandon continues to inspire all who he encounters, reminding every person, regardless of their abilities, has the potential to be a champion. He is not just a Special Olympics athlete; he is a role model and a living embodiment of the boundless possibilities life holds when one embraces every opportunity with an open heart.
Brandon’s heart is open wide, and he eagerly extends a hand of friendship to anyone who crosses his path. And he believes this sense of belonging should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or abilities.
In Brandon’s own words: “Come hang out with us. We have softball, we have bowling, bocce, swimming, tennis, and we have golf. Please come out and play with us.”
Playing together, laughing together, and making memories together is the true definition of inclusion.
As Brandon’s legacy lives on, it serves as a poignant reminder that true champions are not solely defined by their physical prowess but by the depth of their heart and the resilience of their spirit.