Athletes Share their 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Stories

We’ve partnered with Special Olympics for more than 30 years, as part of our longstanding commitment to build a more diverse and inclusive society. Through our partnership with Special Olympics, we’re helping advance athletes’ leadership, employment and skills training.

In July, the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games convened in Seattle. Athletes from across the country competed in sports from basketball and softball to bowling and bocce. Individuals of all abilities and Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams had the opportunity to compete on a national stage. Special Olympics athletes Erin Bailey, Rodnel Turner, Tyler Kennedy and Kearsty McCoy shared their stories and what it meant to them to be competing in the USA Games.

Meet athlete Rodnel Turner

As a versatile athlete participating in a variety of sports, Rodnel Turner competes in basketball, track and field, softball, bowling, powerlifting and bocce for Special Olympics Kansas. Turner competed in his first track event when he was 12 years old, and participated in powerlifting at USA Games this summer. His favorite part of competing is meeting new people.

Turner’s advice to those considering participating in Special Olympics is “just don’t quit.” Special Olympics has been especially rewarding for Turner because it has allowed him to step outside of his comfort zone.

“I have learned not to be shy anymore,” said Turner. “At first, I just wanted to get events done and go home. Now, I feel much more comfortable and confident.”

Meet athlete Erin Bailey

Erin enters during the Opening Ceremony

Erin Bailey (center) makes a big entrance at the Opening Ceremony alongside her Special Olympics Delaware teammates.

Erin and 3 others with hands raised

Erin (left) at the ESPN Unified Sports Challenge with NFL Hall of Famer Walter Jones and our executives Kerry Schroeder and Michele Barlow.

Erin playing tennis

With a steady swing and an eye on the ball, Erin shines on the court.

Erin and tennis partner holding their medals

Erin Bailey and tennis doubles partner Malik Bradford (left) show off their smiles and medals after an unforgettable day.

Seasoned tennis player Erin Bailey has been a lifelong sports fan with a passion for tennis. Since Bailey’s initial involvement in Special Olympics Delaware, the organization has allowed her to remain active, develop her interpersonal skills and see the true value of teamwork. When she found out she would be competing in the USA Games, Bailey was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I am really excited [to be competing in the USA Games],” said Bailey. “I started screaming and crying when I opened the letter from Special Olympics.”

Bailey says some of the best parts of competing are meeting new friends, doing her best and making her hometown, friends and family proud. Her mentors, including teachers and professional tennis players like Andre Agassi, inspired Bailey to take up tennis. She hopes to be considered as a role model for future athletes.

Off the court, Bailey is an employee at Bank of America and works in the Support Services division in Delaware doing marketing fulfillment. Learn more about Erin’s work at Bank of America on the Support Services team.

Meet athlete Tyler Kennedy

two men sitting on bleachers

Tyler’s Bank of America coworkers and Special Olympics employee reporters interview Tyler about why he competes in the USA Games.

4 people in red shirts posting for camera

Our employees and athletes Tyler Kennedy and Erin Bailey with executives Kerry Schroeder and Michele Barlow alongside NFL Hall of Famer Walter Jones.

Tyler exiting the pool giving a thumbs up

Tyler exits the pool, eager to claim his gold medal in front of family and friends.

Woman putting 1st place medal on Tyler

Hard work and dedication pay off as Tyler takes first place in the men’s 100-meter backstroke.

Encouraged by his gym teacher to get involved with Special Olympics, Tyler Kennedy participates in many sports, including bowling, basketball, swimming and flag football. In Seattle at USA Games, his abilities were displayed in the pool. While he is competitive, Kennedy’s favorite part of competing is not winning, but doing his best.

“It is a privilege to be able to compete,’” said Kennedy. “I was so excited to learn I got selected for the USA Games. My whole family is coming to Seattle, which makes it even better.”

Kennedy urges those who may want to participate in Special Olympics to simply go for it. He thinks it is important to have fun and enjoy oneself. Ultimately, he is thankful for the support from his family and colleagues at Bank of America, where he works in the Support Services division in Delaware. Learn more about Tyler’s work at Bank of America on the Support Services team.

Meet athlete Kearsty McCoy

Kearsty McCoy has been a natural-born swimmer since the age of 12. She fulfilled a dream by traveling from her hometown in Oklahoma to Seattle for the USA Games.

For McCoy, swimming is an outlet for self-expression because it allows her to feel free. Her proudest moment is receiving the letter saying she was chosen to compete in the USA Games.

The best piece of advice she ever received is “‘Remember if you don’t try, it will be impossible,’” said McCoy. “I want to go out there, have fun and do my best.”

Her role model and mentor is her brother, having frequently attended his swim meets growing up. McCoy’s favorite athlete of all time is Michael Phelps.


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