Sports Envoy
Sports Envoy Program

Michele Carmichael

Special Olympics Swimming

Served as envoy

  • 2019  –  Malta

I had my very first experience with Special Olympics when I was 13/14 years old and was asked to be a swimming volunteer. I have been involved ever since and chose my career as a Special Educator. I have been a certified Special Olympics coach in many sports since the 1980’s and have volunteered in almost every aspect/role of Special Olympics. I have served as a Special Olympics World Games coach and/or head coach five times and attended 10 World Games in some volunteer capacity. I started the first high school program for students with Intellectual Disabilities on a regular/mainstream campus in Fresno, California in 1988. I retired from teaching after 38 years but continue to volunteer with Special Olympics, Unified Sports and high school swimming and water polo programs.

Alec Heuermann

Special Olympics Swimming

Served as envoy

  • 2019  –  Malta

My name is Alec Heuermann, I am 22 years old. I live in Northern California with my mom and dad and 3 younger brothers. I am a college student studying Mechatronics at Sierra College.

I am also a swimmer for the West Placer Special Olympics here in CA. I have also competed for golf, flag football and bowling. I recently completed the Global Messenger Training with the Special Olympics. I am passionate about competing in Special Olympic Sports and also about the Mission of Special Olympics and the Unified Sports Movement.

I have always enjoyed sports but I especially like skiing and swimming. I began competing in swim during my high school year for my school team and local rec summer leagues. After I finished high school, I aged out of competition in both leagues. Luckily, I found and joined the Special Olympics. I have been competing now for 4 years. I was lucky enough to win a spot at the state summer games all 3 years but this summer the summer games are cancelled because of Covid-19. The highlight of my Special Olympic Career was competing in the World games in Dubai in March 2019. I competed in swimming and won 2 silver medals in the 200 Free and 4×100 free relay. It was amazing to see athletes compete in 24 sports and 190 nations were represented. It was amazing!! Athletes young and old and from every background were brought together to compete at their level. I made lifelong friendships with both athletes and coaches… it is an experience I will never forget.

After the World Games, I had another fantastic opportunity to spread the message of Inclusion thru sports via the 360 Envoy program. In October 2019, I traveled to Malta with the Special Olympics national swim coach Michele Carmichael and US Olympic Medalist Donna De Varona. We spoke about the importance of Special Olympics and its focus on the spirit of inclusion through the Unified Sports Program. We presented to the University of Malta college students and faculty as well as coaches and PE teachers working in the local high schools. We spoke about how they can create unified programs in the schools and why it is important. As a result, University students then served as a practicum experience in local SO Malta programs.

We also got to present to the media and local NGO’s re the importance of inclusion in their programs. My favorite part were the inclusive swim clinics that were held with the local schools and Special Olympic Athletes. This was a first in Malta and it was a lot of fun for all involved.

The people of Malta couldn’t have been warmer hosts and the message was embraced with open hearts and minds. Again an unforgettable place in the friendships we made and the country was a spectacular backdrop to such an incredible week.

Other engagements that I have spoken at are the California State Capitol where I was recognized for my efforts at the World Games. I was also awarded a ceremony at Sierra College, Rocklin City Council and for the local school district as a “Student Who Makes a Difference”. Lastly, I was featured on local tv stations, magazines and newspapers. Most importantly, all of these events gave me a platform to speak about the importance and message of inclusion and unified sports.

In the future, I hope I am awarded more opportunities to not only compete in sports but to speak to others about how sport can bring us together. I plan to remain active in the unified sports movement.

Donna De Varona

Swimming

Served as envoy

  • 2019  –  Malta

At age 13, Donna de Varona was the youngest member of the United States swimming team at the Olympic Games Rome 1960. The San Diego native broke 18 world records by the age of 17, and won two gold medals when she competed in the 400-meter individual medley and the 4×100 freestyle relay at the Tokyo 1964 Games. She was named Female Athlete of the Year by both the Associated Press and United Press International. Following retirement at competitive swimming at age 17, de Varona began a successful sportscasting career. She was both the first female sportscaster and first woman to cover the Olympics for television in the United States, covering the Olympic Games for ABC in 1968, 1972 and 1976. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from UCLA. She helped co-found the Women’s Sports Foundation and served as the organization’s first president from 1976-84. She also worked as a consultant to the United States Senate, specifically regarding the Amateur Sports Act to give women and minorities greater access to athletics facilities and money. De Varona was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports and International Swimming Hall of Fame.