BOZEMAN, Mont. – Ruth Spinelli started participating in Special Olympics programs when she moved to Montana in 2014 and found what she calls her “big, gigantic family.”
Spinelli is originally from Falls Church, Virginia, but while she grew up there, she said support for athletes with disabilities in her home state was limited.
The Special Olympics of Montana was an entirely different story.
“It’s more of a family to me because when I was in Virginia, I didn’t really have much of a family, but now I have a big, gigantic family,” Spinelli said.
According to the Special Olympics of Montana, over 3,000 athletes from more than 65 Montana communities train and compete year-round while around 2% or 20,000 Montanans have intellectual disabilities.
Spinelli received some help to publish the book, “Hearts and Souls of Special Olympics,” from her helper Alean Skinner, a retired special education teacher as well as coach, volunteer and the current athlete leadership programs coordinator for the area training athletes to be "global messengers."
The book features anonymous survey responses in the form of short stories from Special Olympic athletes in Montana to connect with others about the adversities they face, but also the benefits of Special Olympic programs.
Skinner and Spinelli said they look to increase inclusion across the state, and hopefully the country, for people with developmental disabilities.
“That’s what I love about Special Olympics because there’s no judgment, I’m able to be who I am and they get to be who they are,” Skinner said.
Thanks to Special Olympics of Montana, Spinelli said she has tried out almost every sport possible, but her favorite and best event is the triathlon which she has finished in 33 minutes.
Spinelli has also helped raise thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics through their local polar plunge events which are coming up again this year in December and in January and February 2022 at locations across the state.
You can find out more about how to purchase “Hearts and Souls of Special Olympics” by Ruth Spinelli and Alean Skinner here.