Thea, a Unified Golf athlete, and Jessye, her Unified partner, have competed together for years and represented Northern California as a part of Special Olympics USA at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi. Recently, the pair served as keynote speakers at the annual High Tech Challenge fundraiser and helped to raise more than $320,000 for Special Olympics.
“Special Olympics has helped me make new friendships, improve my sport and social skills, and develop my confidence,” said Thea. “I take pride in all my accomplishments.”
Unified Sports brings together athletes with and without disabilities to compete together, using sports as a platform for inclusion and understanding. Unified Sports can include team games – such as basketball, combining athletes (with disabilities) and partners (without disabilities) on a team – and individual sports, such as golf, with the pair alternating shots through the course.
“Jessye helps me have a positive outlook on my game,” said Thea. “She helps me to aim the ball, select which club to use, and encourages me to play my best. I also help her a lot… like when her shot goes in the sand, or she shanks it out of the fairway. She depends on me and my consistently straight shot!”
Thea and Jessye were invited to participate in the annual High Tech Challenge fundraiser at The Olympic Club on September 23, which featured a full day of golf, a reception, auctions and raffles, and a full dinner and program. The two played a full 18 holes, compared to their usual nine in Unified competitions, then took to the stage in front of hundreds to share their story and the impacts of Special Olympics.
They spoke about Unified Sports, their World Games experience to Abu Dhabi, and how their friendship has grown stronger – even while with each other nonstop on the trip.
“Three weeks is a long time to spend with anyone 24/7,” joked Jessye. “But we loved it. We had a great experience and now we’re really good friends.”
Along with raising significant funds, the High Tech Challenge offered an opportunity for participants – most from major local tech companies – to interact with Special Olympics athletes and learn about the different programs available. Bonds were created, new friends were made and, as expressed by Thea, the Special Olympics family grew stronger.
“Special Olympics is a family of people that love me and are supportive of me and I feel the same about them.”