Social Encore: Facing fears with Special Olympics

Oct. 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Everyone is afraid of something. For me, I’m afraid of heights. However, with the help of Special Olympics Hawai‘i’s fifth annual “Over the Edge” event, I will be able to cross something off of my bucket list by repelling 31-stories at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Sounds fun right? Well, you can do it too!

Honolulu Star-Advertiser features reporter Nina Wu rapelled before a free hang 31 stories down the side of the Sheraton Waikiki in 2011. (Star-Advertiser File)

Honolulu Star-Advertiser features reporter Nina Wu rapelled before a free hang 31 stories down the side of the Sheraton Waikiki in 2011. (Star-Advertiser File)

“Every year we dare our supporters to conquer their own fears, much like our Special Olympics athletes do whether it’s on the field, in the classroom, or on the job,” said Special Olympics Hawai‘i president and CEO Nancy Bottelo. “Over the last five years we have hosted ‘Over the Edge,’ we have raised $570,000, which has provided critical funding to our mission…but fostering a community of inclusion, no matter what your abilities are.”

Special Olympics Hawai‘i was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and today has grown to more than 2,700 athletes across the state. With the support of more than 7,000 coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver nine Olympic-type sports and more than 40 competitions throughout the year. Through sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is able to encourage and empower people with intellectual disabilities in Hawai‘i.

Athletes like Ranie Jade Thompson are proving that despite having disabilities, anything is possible thanks to programs offered by Special Olympics.

Thompson was diagnosed with cognitive disabilities and bipolarism, post-traumatic stress syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and autism at just seven years old.

Ranie Jade Thompson, left, and her father, TJay Thompson. (Courtesy photo)

Ranie Jade Thompson, left, and her father, TJay Thompson. (Courtesy photo)

Her disabilities caused her to experience a series of psychotic breaks when she was younger, with some resulting in hospitalization. She said when confronting her disabilities, she was ashamed to be labeled as being different. In 2012, she wanted to face her fears and push her energy into something productive and active. Asking her father, MMA promoter and “Hawaii Five-0″ stunt actor TJay Thompson, to participate made it a family affair, and they soon set a goal to train for the Special Olympics.

Last summer at the Hawaii regional games, Thompson took home three medals, including a gold medal for the 100-meter dash, gold for running long jump and silver for the 200-meter dash (where she went up against only male competitors). TJay Thompson said it was a tough road for his daughter, but he’s proud about everything she’s been able to overcome.

Ranie Jade Thompson said she wants to inspire others by living by example. She hopes to win a bid to the 2014 nationals in New Jersey.

“It is important to show other people with disabilities that you can do more than what other people think you can,” she said. “Special Olympics gives me something to work towards and constantly challenge myself.”

There is never a fee for any athlete or family to participate in any Special Olympics programs and the organization hopes to raise $150,000 to benefit Special Olympics Hawai‘i’s Holiday Classic on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24 at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor and Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kāne‘ohe Bay. The classic event allows athletes from around the state to compete in basketball, singles, doubles and unified team bowling, as well as traditional and unified doubles bocce ball.

The view of the Sheraton Waikiki's infinity edge pool from the rooftop of the hotel. (Star-Advetiser File)

The view of the Sheraton Waikiki’s infinity edge pool from the rooftop of the hotel. (Star-Advetiser File)

If you are still a little hesitant, come watch me as face my fears a day early on Nov. 1 around 3 p.m. I’ll show you that 31 stories isn’t so bad when you are helping to benefit a good cause. If I can do it, you can do it too!

If you want to join in on the fun and face your acrophobia like me, it is not to late. Spots will be reserved exclusively for individuals or groups who commit to raising a minimum of $1,000 in donations by the day of the fundraiser. Participants must be at least 18 years of age by Nov. 2 and weigh less than 300 pounds to participate.

To sign up, register online here, or you can donate here.
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Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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