Mary Beth McMahon, President and CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts, joined Parenting Impossible with Host Annette Hines to discuss the transition to virtual activities and society’s perspective on people with disabilities.
When COVID-19 forced Mary Beth to move the organization’s events and summer games online, she knew she would need to keep the events engaging and inclusive. One of the biggest ways that she has pivoted during this time is by continuing to promote the Special Olympics program known as Unified Champion Schools. This “unified sports” program is open for students of any ability to join a unified sports team for basketball or track and field, and it is currently implemented in 202 high schools.
The Unified Champion program has allowed students to form genuine relationships while developing their skills, and Mary Beth and the staff at Special Olympics Massachusetts are working to bring this program to middle schools as well. Unified sports have positively impacted many lives, including the lives of Mary Beth’s children. Her son plays on a unified soccer team, and because of this and his experience being brought up around Special Olympics, he does not see people with disabilities as solely defined by those disabilities, but as human beings in their own right. Mary Beth firmly believes that while we may not be able to change a person’s opinions, we can change a culture’s perspective on disabilities.
In addition to the Unified Champion program, Special Olympics Massachusetts offers small, in-person events as well as virtual events and activities. From virtual dances, games, and activities to hiking, running, snowshoeing and more, athletes of all ages are invited to participate in the sports and events they enjoy.
Mary Beth began her work with Special Olympics as a volunteer, and she continued to come back to events out of her desire to do more for the athletes. To date, she has worked for the organization in Maryland, Northern California, Nevada, and Massachusetts. You can contact her via email at Marybeth.McMahon@specialolympicsma.org.
Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.