2021 SOPA Athletes Ben S. Ben has been involved with Special Olympics PA since 1991 and started his athletic career as a soccer player. His love of sports expanded into team handball, basketball, athletics, bocce, aquatics, bowling, and golf. Ben makes us smile after every competition when he says “it’s the best day ever”! Kellen Kellen has been a Special Olympics PA athlete for over 12 years. In addition to soccer, basketball, swimming and track, Kellen also participates in bowling with the South Hills All Stars. Kellen loves to spend his free time listening to music, dancing, watching movies, reading, and completing puzzles. Ben F. Ben has been a Special Olympics PA athlete for over 16 years. He participates in basketball and bocce, but his favorite sport is bowling. Ben spends most of his Saturdays participating in bowling leagues. Ben is a huge cat lover and thinks they’ve got great “cattitude”. Isadora Isadora (Izzy) has been an advocate and athlete of Special Olympics for over 17 years. Izzy loves to play in a variety of sports like bowling, basketball, bocce, golf, soccer, tennis, and track & field. Izzy is most proud of her accomplishment as a World Games athlete and for being inducted into the Pennsylvania Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Besides playing Special Olympic Sports she loves to do craft projects, especially scrapbooking in her free time. Martin Martin has been a Special Olympics PA athlete for over 16 years and most recently won a gold medal in the 50 M backstroke at Penn State’s Summer Games. His favorite sport is swimming. Outside of swimming, Martin loves to bowl and even spend time as a theatre performer. He enjoys singing and dancing at the Center for Theatre Arts as a student. Michael Michael has been a Special Olympics PA athlete for over 23 years. He participates in bocce, bowling, golf, swimming, basketball, and track & field. Michael enjoys music, and you can even find him practicing on his guitar that was gifted to him by one of his favorite bands, Steeltown. Michael’s favorite past time is to go see Steeltown play and dance the night away to his favorite song Moni Moni, which they band plays special for him! Nick Nick has been a Special Olympics PA athlete for over 13 years! He loves to compete in basketball, soccer and track & field with the Pathfinder Piranhas. On Sundays, you might see Nick at St. Mary of the Mount church where he serves as an altar boy. Jessica Jess has been with Special Olympics PA for over 14 years! Her favorite sport is bocce, but she also enjoys long distance walking and bowling. Jess has also been an amazing ambassador for Special Olympics PA! She’s even traveled across the country to present at various Special Olympic events. Roy Roy joined Special Olympics PA just over two years ago and loves to compete in basketball and track with the Pathfinder Piranhas. During the week, Roy participates in a day program with Turtle Creek Valley and enjoys playing his favorite XBOX1 game. Over the years, Roy has collected a variety of police badges, jewelry, and hats. He loves to show them off when he’s out. Paul Paul has been involved with Special Olympics PA for over 24 years and competes in multiple sports like basketball, bowling, golf, soccer, track & field, skiing and even speed skating. Many people are surprised to learn that he used to skate with former silver medalist Olympian, John Henry. Lydia Lydia has been a Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger for over 9 years. She has competed in soccer, skiing, track & field, and swimming. In 2018, she represented Team PA at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington. Lydia spends her free time volunteering at the Muddy Rose Pottery in Hopewell Township. Liz Liz joined the Special Olympics over 3 years ago. Besides bowling, Liz also enjoys ice skating, power lifting, swimming, basketball, and bowling. When she’s not competing, Liz loves to hang out with her friends and enjoy movies, dinner and various outings. Her favorite past time is painting. Justin Justin’s mom can describe him with two simple words: A Blessing! Justin or JJ as he is affectionately known, has been with SOPA now for 10 years and he participates in a number of sports: swimming, basketball, track, bowling and soccer. Of those though, swimming is definitely his favorite! When I asked his mom about his preferred swimming stroke, she laughed and said does leisurely floating count! However, all joking aside, I found out that Justin can turn up the heat on his front crawl when he wants to race to the finish line! She said all they have to say is “JJ go fast”. Justin’s dad is a pastor and during each sermon he asks people to shake someone’s hand and spread love…JJ calls this the “Shake and Spread” and it’s a motto he tries to live by everyday-it is a lot more than just words to him. For JJ, it’s a way of life and everyone who meets him describes this gentle man as easy going, very helpful, loving and willing to lend a hand to anyone in need. Cory “NEVER give up – push it to the very end!” This is the mantra SOPA athlete Cory chooses to live his life by. Cory has been an athlete with Special Olympics PA (SOPA) for four years now; and he participates in soccer, floor hockey and basketball. He loves his soccer team because he said he has the greatest teammates anyone could ask for. It is this experience that has helped Cory grow as both an athlete and a person. He said he is much more outgoing since he started participating and each successful interaction has helped build his confidence. Being part of a team has also taught him skills that he can use in other areas of his life. Cory definitely has a busy and full life outside of SOPA! When he’s not on the soccer field or running the basketball courts, he is working a full-time job at Freeport Middle School as a custodian. He is also a volunteer at his church, works one day per week at Giant Eagle and helps the neighborhood kids with their soccer skills. Jonathan Jonathan has been involved in Special Olympics PA for 14 years and he started his athletic career with us as a golfer. He currently participates in swimming, basketball and bowling. While Jonathan likes all of the sports he participates in, Basketball is his favorite because he loves to score baskets and dunk the ball when on a fast break, thus earning him the nickname “High Flyer Tyler”! Jonathan has worked for the past 7 years at UPMC as a mail handler and in his spare time he enjoys racing go karts, long distance running and drawing. Zachary Zachary has been an athlete with Special Olympics since the young age of 8 years old. He has competed in a variety of sports including bocce, basketball, swimming, baseball, and track & field. Zachary is also very passionate about healthy habits and loves to promote the importance of things like nutrition and exercising to other Special Olympic athletes. On Sundays, you will find him assisting his pastor in teaching gospel at his local church. Judah Judah has been with Special Olympics for over five (5) years and loves to compete in track, baseball, and basketball. You can also find him in the pool swimming with the Pathfinder Piranhas. Judah is just as disciplined in school as well. His favorite subjects are music and gym. You might see him doing cartwheels and dancing as he tries to charm the ladies too! Nancy Nancy is an athlete with Washington/Greene County. She has been involved in Special Olympics for over 5 years and is a multi-sport athlete. She competes in swimming, bowling, long distance run/walk and soccer! Swimming is her favorite sport because she just loves to be in the water. When Nancy is not participating in sports, she works out at the gym a few days a week and goes horseback riding every Wednesday. Nancy also holds a full-time job at a daycare helping with snacks, lunch, nap-time and activities. When people meet Nancy, they say she is always smiling! Jacki Jacki is an athlete with Butler County. She has been involved in Special Olympics for most of her life and is a multi-sport athlete. She competes in floor hockey, soccer, volleyball, tennis and basketball! When Jacki is not practicing her sports, she loves to read crime novels & listening to music. She also enjoys video games and watching movies. Jacki truly enjoys public speaking and is a Global Messenger for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Global Messengers teach people about Special Olympics and spread our mission with the public. Edi Edi competes in Special Olympics basketball through his school and bowls with the South Hills All Stars. He enjoys hanging out with his teammates and never misses the opportunity to share high-fives. Edi loves WWE, snowboarding and playing video games. The ONLY thing he would take a break from these things for is a good pizza and some cookies! He is looking forward to meeting you and he can’t wait to connect with some new teammates. Meghan Meg has been involved with Special Olympics for about 13 years. She participates in Soccer, Basketball, Swimming, and Track & Field. Meghan is 21 years old and she graduated from Pathfinder School and participates in the Adult Training Program at Step by Step. In her free time Meg enjoys playing on the computer, reading books, playing board games, and she is a HUGE fan of American Ninja Warrior. Kevin Kevin has competed with Special Olympics for many years. He enjoys multiple sports, and has earned gold medals in 3-on-3 basketball with the Pathfinder Piranhas. After working for over 30 years, in 2016, Kevin retired from the U.S. Post Office. With the support of his close-knit family, Kevin has become very independent. He loves, church, music and is a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He always has a joke to brighten your day. Hailey Hailey is an athlete with Butler County She has been involved in Special Olympics for most of her life and is a multi-sport athlete. She competes in volleyball, Floor Hockey, Basketball and Gymnastics! Gymnastics is her favorite sport because it’s something new for her to learn and they have A LOT of fun doing it! When Haley is not practicing in sports, she loves to hang out with her cousin Katie watching movies and listening to music.