Every year on his birthday, Kendall Sue saves enough money for a visit to his favorite hometown toy store. With a love for anything with wheels, he searches for the most expensive model train to add to his collection.
When asked to put the red train back on the shelf and to bring the blue train to the cashier, he may put the blue train on the shelf and leave the red train on the table; it is hard for him to understand complex tasks.
But when he walks by a train station, he is able to list the routes and times the train will pass, as his muscle memory kicks in.
Helping raise his brother with autism, TMC Team Special Olympics leader, Chris Sue has gained new perspective for traditional family structures and values.
“He’s not unintelligent, he just learns in a very different way. And it’s really impressive,” Sue said.
His relationship with his brother, Kendall Sue, has taught him kindness and patience toward everyone.
“I had to learn not to judge a book by its cover because I wanted that so badly from others toward my brother,” Sue said.
People with intellectual disabilities are given the chance to focus on building confidence through newly found strengths by participating in the Special Olympics.
The Master’s College Team Special Olympics will be volunteering at the World Games from Jan. 25 to Aug. 2. For the first week, the team will be hosting a hometown program of 140 athletes from four different countries. Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America will be represented at the opening dinner held at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
“Trying to be a good witness may not be so much as running up on stage and screaming the gospel,” Sue said, “but trying to make them feel like they are a part of something special.”
The second week of the mission trip will be dedicated to the athletes. The Special Olympics World Games is presenting 7,000 athletes from all over the map to compete in 25 summer sports across Los Angeles. The team expects to volunteer as part of the opening, closing, and medal ceremonies.
“[The athletes] just have this gentleness about them,” Sue said, “If you love on these people, they don’t expect much more than that.”
As one of the leaders on this short-term mission, Sue has used his experience with his family and ASB to maintain planning and communication skills within his team. Annie Ownbey, TMC sophomore, will be co-leading Team Special Olympics with Sue.
“Chris, my co-leader, is very organized. Because he’s on ASB, he does a good job keeping sheets and figuring what to do next,” Ownbey said.
Ownbey found her passion for special needs working the physical and occupational therapy fields in high school. She later traveled to a six-story special needs orphanage in Luoyang, China. Last summer, she was also involved with local churches focused on special needs ministry in Russia.
“The China mentality is a lot like Russia,” Ownbey said, “just seeing how they try to hide the kids in the corner in the house and never let them out. You never saw someone with special needs outside.”
This Special Olympics mission trip will prepare Ownbey for her career interest in pediatric occupational therapy.
The balance of leadership between Sue and Ownbey, despite their unique history in special needs ministry, has done more than just bring a group of students together. Each member carries a different background, offering different talents, united by one common thread: a heart for special needs ministry.
“Out team is a lot of fun. And even with these dynamics, we can all bring something different to the team,” Ownbey said.
It’s not often that a team leader can look at a group of five unfamiliar faces and instantly call them family.
“The first meeting as a team, Chris called us family. His immediate thought was going toward the future, knowing that we’re going to do all this work together for something greater than ourselves,” said Team Special Olympics member Whitney Gomillion.
So what motivates Team Special Olympics to inspire people globally to change their hearts and to accept a broader view of human potential? The answer lies in each individual story.
“Every person regardless of their abilities or disabilities are created in the image of God, and are loved by him; therefore, should be loved by us,” said Global Outreach director Dr. Lisa LaGeorge.
LaGeorge will be overseeing all the global outreach teams this summer and has had a great impact on Team Special Olympics.
“Bringing internationals to be a part of the Special Olympics highlights for them that there are people capable of great joy, and bringing great happiness, even in the midst of a body or a mind that may not function the same way that ours do,” LaGeorge later added.
By Kelsey Kukaua