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Susie Doyens has Down syndrome, and it left her almost mute due to social pressure and anxiety.

Written notes and communicating through her mother were her ways of "talking" to the world when she was a child.

Fast forward to 2001, when she was asked to be part of the Special Olympics Global Messenger training that teaches public speaking, and its emissaries talk to people — publicly — about those with special needs.


Check out her story:

Discovering Special Olympics changed her life.

It wasn't all that long ago that families who had kids born with Down syndrome were encouraged to take them to institutions, drop them off, and never look back. In fact, Susie's parents, Lynda and Dan, were encouraged to do just that.

In an interview with the Special Olympics, Dan, Susie's dad, remembers: “The pediatrician that told us [that she had Downs syndrome] says, 'Well, maybe you should just drop her off at a home and leave her there.' And we said, 'No, we can't do that.'"

Fortunately for Susie, they were not about to do anything of the sort. Instead, they worked with her year after year, until at age 9, Susie was still not speaking. She was so painfully shy, she'd look at people's shoes rather than in their eyes. "Her head was always down," according to her dad.

She communicated almost exclusively via written words on paper.

But then, she discovered Special Olympics, where she got to play golf with professionals in a program called “Unified Golf."

As her skills grew, so did her desire to communicate with others using her actual voice. She built relationships with other players, and she was highly competitive, seeking a gold medal where she could.

Susie has competed in 10 sports during her nearly three decades in Special Olympics, but golf is the sport she's most passionate about.

Now, she looks people right in the eye — by playing golf in the Special Olympics and speaking to thousands of people through the Global Messenger program.

"Special Olympics makes me feel good about myself. And I love public speaking," says Susie.

"Special Olympics helped me find my voice."

Indeed. And a beautiful voice it is.

What's the Special Olympics all about?

Timothy Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics, says that people with intellectual disabilities tend to believe that their opinions are not important and that others can speak for them better. That certainly happened in Susie's case.

The mission statement for the organization lays it all out:

"The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community."

More than 4.4 million athletes from over 170 countries participate every year in training and competitions.

And once every two years, the program holds the biggest competition, the Special Olympics World Games. The most recent summer games, held in Los Angeles, ended in early August 2015.

Check them out. And here's a place to read more of Susie's story. For a longer, more detailed video on her parents and her transformation, check this video out.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

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