My son Matthew “Matt” Schuler was first introduced to Special Olympics in High School. Hinsdale South had a basketball team and this was the first time Matt ever competed with athletes who shared his same skill level.
The first time I saw Matt compete, I was overcome with emotion. He looked comfortable, confident and proud to be on that court. It is a very humbling experience. To this day, I am still touched watching him, as well as the other athletes competing.
That was the start of a new beginning for Matt and for the past 16 years he has participated in several Special Olympic sports; soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball, floor hockey and power lifting. He has gone to State in a few of these sports and has won gold, silver and bronze medals, and has made many friends along the way.
But he found his true calling with Powerlifting. He was chosen to compete in the USA Open Nationals in May 2019 along with Brandon Moody who has been with Matt in Powerlifting for a few years now so it was fitting they attend the competition together, both winning gold medals. I asked Matt how he felt about being chosen to participate, and he said excited and proud.
Even though Matt has a huge support system at home, his belief in himself is due in large part to Special Olympics. I believe Special Olympics gives the gift of life to individuals with disabilities.
Special Olympics has instilled a level of confidence in these Matt that goes far beyond winning a gold medal. This confidence empowers individuals to be the best that they can be. They feel important; they are equals in society and believe anything is possible.
He was chosen as a Global Messenger for Special Olympics in October 2019. This was another highlight for Matt. He was so thrilled to attend the training class in Springfield along with another of his friends he met through Special Olympics. He was beaming. He couldn’t wait to show us his briefcase and his very own business cards. At that moment, I thought to myself this journey he has been on will continue throughout every aspect of his life.
While volunteering at “Cop on a Rooftop,” he was approached by one of the Plainfield Police officers and asked if he’d be interested in doing volunteer work for Special Olympics and the Police Department. That led to Matt becoming an Ambassador for the Plainfield Police Department to promote Special Olympics. This was a perfect opportunity for Matt to reach out to the community regarding individuals with disabilities. I attend the meetings with Matt and they go through various fundraising events they are planning. They ask him his opinion regarding the events, merchandise they may be selling, etc. This alone makes him feel like he is truly part of a team; they value his opinion.
He has volunteered at several of their events. One of the events he participated in was the Armored Truck Pull to raise money for Special Olympics. He was one of a team of five. It was also his first speaking engagement where he introduced himself to the crowd as the Ambassador for the Plainfield Police Department and spoke about Special Olympics.
If anyone ever has a chance to attend a Special Olympics event, I know it will change their lives forever. I don’t think you can truly explain the feeling you get inside watching these individuals pouring their hearts outs, giving their all. They truly live up to the motto for Special Olympics.
Matt is also serving his community during a very difficult time; the COVID-19 Pandemic. He works at Mariano’s and is considered an “essential employee.” He is very dedicated and takes his job to heart. He is always trying to help people as best he can.
We couldn’t be more proud of Matt. There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude to Special Olympics and the wonderful coaches he has had along the way that have attributed to Matt’s growth and great life experiences that have made him the amazing young man he is today.