HYANNIS PORT—It was a special night for three Special Olympics athletes who were invited to the summer home of Timothy Shriver.
Shriver, who serves as chairman of Special Olympics, hosted NHL Hockey Hall of Famer and Olympic champion Slava Fetisov as well as Special Olympics medalists Amanda Church, Jon Derr and Trey Marabella on Aug. 10.
Church, Derr and Marabella are residents of Living Independently Forever, Inc. (LIFE), a non-profit organization that provides supportive services for independent living for adults with learning and intellectual disabilities. LIFE currently serves individuals throughout the Cape and Plymouth area, and has living communities in Hyannis, Mashpee and Plymouth, with year-round employment, social and recreational opportunities.
Shriver and his wife, Linda Potter, just purchased the home on Ocean Ave. in Hyannis Port in July. During the evening, Shriver played some golf on the putting range with Derr, who has been involved in Special Olympics since the age of 7 and competes in golf, basketball, soccer and track and field. He’s brought home gold medals in golf during the Special Olympics National Games. Marabella, whose sport is basketball, read a poem that he wrote, saying how much Special Olympics means to him. Church, who has been swimming since she was a child, has been a Special Olympics athlete for the last 10 years. She attended the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles two years ago, bringing home silver and bronze medals.
“Linda and I were extremely honored to host Slava at our home, but we were equally thrilled to host Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes Trey, Amanda and Jon,” said Shriver. “Their presence, as we recognized Slava for his commitment to growing Special Olympics Russia and improving the lives of all persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in his home country, was an extremely important reminder how important and critical his work is. We look forward to seeing Trey, Amanda and Jon again soon and value their contributions and guidance as we strive for a more joyful and inclusive world for all.”
The Special Olympics program at LIFE was started 10 years ago by Ian Saarmann, the organization’s fitness and athletics director. It began with a handful of residents. Now, more than 50 athletes participate in basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, track and field and bowling. For the most part, the LIFE athletes practice at local schools or the Boys & Girls Club. The golf team, which had its state tournament in late August, practices at the Hyannis Golf Course.
“We’re lucky to be able to use the resources around us,” said Saarmann. “We’ve had some amazing moments. Our basketball team made it the Nationals in Nebraska in 2010 and made a halftime appearance at a Celtics game that same year. In 2015, we took a couple of athletes to the World Games in Los Angeles.”
Under Saarmann leadership, the LIFE athletics program has grown to include three fitness centers and one of the largest Special Olympics programs in the state. The fitness centers are open to residents 24 hours a day, with private trainers at their disposal to help them work toward exercise and nutritional goals. Group recreational activities and nutritional education classes are offered regularly.
“Besides the obvious health benefits, it gives our residents something to be motivated by,” said Saarmann. “You see the confidence they build and the teamwork skills they develop. The individuals we work with are amazing. It’s so inspiring to watch them grow, and to learn from them.”
Saarmann also attended the evening with the Shrivers, along with Mary Beth McMahon, CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts.
“It was an intimate evening with the Kennedy and Shriver families,” said Saarmann. “They were just great and inspiring people and made us feel right at home.”