My Big Sis, My Hero



Justin Grammer was the writer of the winning story in the 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Share Your Story contest. As this year’s winner Justin, Jessica and their family will be our special guest’s at this year’s First Look for Charity event at McCormick Place on Friday, February 7.

By Justin Grammer of Joliet

My sister Jessica Grammer was diagnosed when she was 2 years old with autism.  When she was 6, she took swim lessons which did not go very well.  She had trouble swimming from one end of the pool to the other.  And when asked to swim on her back, she sank.

Imagine my surprise when she asked our mom to sign her up for a Special Olympics swim team.  Because of her determination, Jessica not only swam an impressive freestyle, but her backstroke was good too.

This past year at Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games, Jessica won a gold medal for her 50-meter backstroke which was swam in an open competition.

Illinois Summer Games, Justin, JessicaI am so proud of my sister because she has taught me to never give up.

My big sister Jessica Grammer is my hero.  She is passionate and caring and willing to let me join in on her Special Olympics experience.

Jessica asks me to go to the pool with her to help train for competitions.  Not only that, but she has made sure that I am included when she goes to swim practice with her team.

I see so many special needs people (including my sister) being excluded from “normal” activities because they have special needs.  When my sister started with Special Olympics, I was afraid that her and her team mates would exclude me because of how they were treated by the outside world.  But I was mistaken.

My sister made it a point to introduce me to all of her friends and coaches.  Her teammates have taken me in not only as a friend, but they treat me like a little brother.  I have learned from Jessica and all my new best friends how to treat others.  I wish the world could experience what I have been able to experience through my sister.

Not only has Special Olympics transformed the life of my sister by allowing her to swim, but it has also transformed me.

Jessica has gone from someone who was afraid to talk to people because most people would shut her down because she was hard to understand, to someone who has worked hard in speech therapy so she could be understood when sharing her experience with Special Olympics and swimming.

My sister went from not wanting to be around people, to eagerly waiting for the next Special Olympics fundraiser or special event just so she can meet new people.

My sister is my hero because she has shown me how to be courageous and never give up.