NYT: Martin Sheets, Who Shone at the Special Olympics, Dies at 62

Martin Sheets, who became a face of the Special Olympics, winning more than 250 medals competing for more than 40 years in its events for people with intellectual disabilities, died on Thursday in Greensboro, N.C. He was 62.

He had dementia, his family said.

Mr. Sheets, born with Down syndrome, competed in golf, swimming, Alpine skiing, tennis and powerlifting at the Special Olympics, his participation in the movement going back to its first international summer games, at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1968.

He became ill after arriving there and was unable to compete, but at a banquet concluding the event, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics, having learned of his disappointment, walked over to his table.

“I understand you trained to come to the games but you got sick,” she said. “Well, Marty, for your guts and your effort, I want you to have a gold medal, too. Here you go. Marty Sheets, the winner of the special gold medal for bravery.”

She draped it around his neck. Continue reading NYT: Martin Sheets, Who Shone at the Special Olympics, Dies at 62

Chicago Tribune: Autism no obstacle for boy, 13, handling duties at former teacher’s wedding

Dressed in a freshly starched tux with a pale pink tie, Will McCall tapped the microphone, looked at the audience and began reciting the John Lennon lyrics chosen by the bride and groom.

He had practiced for days, memorized a sheet of instructions, and now the moment had come.

“Grow old along with me/ The best is yet to be/ When our time has come/ We will be as one

At 13, the Glencoe boy just wants to be like everyone else. He hates the word “autism,” a condition that has often kept him in separate classrooms and schools. So he was elated when asked to be in the wedding of his former teacher and baby sitter, Melissa Newman.

While people with autism often struggle socially, Will thrives around other people and has come a long way since Newman met him at age 4, when he used to hide from family members, she said.

“He’s grown up a lot in the past year,” Newman, 33,of Wheeling said. “He can be proud and comfortable instead of being scared.”

This month,Will and his sister, Taylor, 11, walked down the aisle as a junior groomsman and junior bridesmaid at Newman’s wedding to Benjamin Burke in Lincolnshire.

Will’s parents were nervous and excited about their son’s role — and admittedly relieved that he read the lyrics without too much embellishment.

“He might decide to sing a song,” his father, Chip McCall, said later. “I am glad he stuck with the script.”

At Will’s tux fitting a few days earlier, he admired himself in the mirror. “I am very handsome,” he murmured, then asked his mother, “Can I wear this when we get home?”

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