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Breakfast With Champions

Special Olympics Arizona Hosts Breakfast with Champions – Revealing Greatness

Over 1,000 executives, law enforcement officers, athletes, supporters and families came together on the morning of Thursday, October 8, 2015, for the annual Breakfast with Champions event hosted by Special Olympics Arizona at the iconic Arizona Biltmore hotel.

The event was a huge success in fundraising efforts and awareness for those with intellectual disabilities.

The program began at 7:30 a.m. with the Glendale Police Department Honor Guard and athlete procession. The officers and athletes stood united at the front as the American flag entered with traditional bagpipes engulfing the room. As everyone sat down after the National Anthem, Kevin Ray, professional sports broadcaster, took the stage and kicked off the morning’s festivities.

Shortly after the welcome and introduction, President and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona Tim Martin took over the podium. Martin’s passion and love for the cause could be heard in his voice and felt across the large ballroom.

The growth of athletes and the organization has been outstanding. “In 2010 we had about 6,500 athletes competing and attending the events, in 2015 we reached 18,000 athletes, and by the end of the year we hope to have 20,000,” Martin said.

In a letter from the CEO within the event’s program Martin said, “Special Olympics can change a person’s life through purpose and inclusion. With the Unified Movement, we provide programs that build friendships, mentorships, healthy lifestyles and an atmosphere of acceptance for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“The greatest gift in life is the understanding that greatness resides in us all, and life’s greatest moments come from revealing this greatness.”

“Revealing greatness” was the overarching theme of the morning, and that greatness truly exuded from keynote speaker, and Special Olympics athlete since 1970, Loretta Claiborne.

Claiborne’s resume of accomplishments is inspiring to say the least. The 62-year-old woman was born with both a physical and intellectual disability and didn’t walk or talk until she was four years old.

With over 50 years of long distance running, she has completed 26 marathons, including the Boston marathon with a time of three hours and three minutes. Along with long distance running, Claiborne taught herself sign language and learned to swim; she has a fourth degree black belt and is also a competitive bowler.

Claiborne was the first athlete to serve on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics International and is currently in her fourth term. She is a recipient of ESPY Awards’ Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Her goal is to educate people on how it feels to be different, and continue to promote Special Olympics as a positive force that changes lives.

Changing lives and revealing greatness continued as the theme through the morning, especially when 18-year-old Alan Barberi graced the crowd with an emotional and heart-warming story that left tears in the eyes of many in the room.

Alan Barberi was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that happens when an infant’s spine doesn’t close completely, damaging the spinal cord and nerves.

Barberi’s mother was told prior to birth her son would never walk and would be immobile his entire life. However, that’s not the case for this determined young man.

With the help of his close friend, Barberi participated in the Unified Sports program that pairs individuals with intellectual disabilities with individuals without intellectual disabilities to compete together on the same team. Barberi competed in several track and field events in April 2015, however, his real goal was to train to walk across the stage during his high school graduation in May.

On May 21, 2015, Alan Barberi stood up and walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. As Breakfast attendees watched the captivating video of Barberi’s story, many began tearing up and clapping, and just seconds after the lights came on in the ballroom, there was Barberi walking across the ballroom stage to the podium to thank everyone for attending the event.

“Unified Sports completely changed my life,” Barberi said.

The crowd stood and applauded Barberi as he choked up continuing to thank everyone.

As Barberi left the podium, Trish Bear, Event Chair and President of I-ology, a Scottsdale-based boutique web development company, took the stage fighting back tears while trying to follow such an inspirational story.

Bear reminded everyone about revealing greatness and said, “Look around, this is what 1,000 people looks like. If we can all donate just $250 each, we can afford to put 2,000 more athletes in the Arizona programs.”

Bear held up a clear Special Olympics medal that was battery powered and glowed once turned on. The medals represented donation contributors and were given to those who raised their hand with donation cards.

“Let’s light this place up,” Bear said. Within just minutes glowing medals were seen at the hundred-plus tables within the ballroom.

The event closed out with guest speaker Chief Sherry Kiyler, former Chief of Police for the Chandler Police Department. Chief Kiyler has raised thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Arizona with the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Tip-A-Cop events, and “Over the Edge” an event that allows sponsored individuals to rappel 27 stories down the CityScape building in downtown Phoenix.

Chief Kiyler encouraged everyone to “Hurl yourself over a giant building to support Special Olympics Arizona,” as she ended the morning’s festivities.

As the morning wrapped up, the overwhelming feeling of triumph and generosity was surely a buzz felt throughout the room.

According to the Special Olympics Arizona Breakfast with Champions committee, “Our goal to raise awareness and funds in a single morning of celebration was surpassed by your stunning response.”

To learn more about the Special Olympics and to donate, visit today.