Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Scoop: 2012 Southern Regional Award Winner, Katie Pullano

SOUTHERN REGIONAL WINNER Katie Pullano was nominated by Julie Harrison, but when we began to follow up on Katie we found that she has a “Texas size” fan base.  In the Bedford Texas area you might find that the people she’s had a positive impact on are never much more than a stone's throw away.  This young lady bubbles with personality and her smile is contagious.  Here's what her nominator (Special Olympics Coach, Julie Harrison) had to say about her.

Nominated by Julie Harrison, Special Olympics Coach
Katie uses her voice as a tool to raise awareness and promote equality for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Katie is involved in many extra-curricular activities, but is always ready and available to serve as a Unified Partner or volunteer at a local or state competition. Katie was selected as the 2011 Unified Athlete of the Year for the Special Olympics Texas-Greater Fort Worth Area. On March 7, Katie organized a “Ban the ‘R’ Word” campaign for her school and continues this campaign daily. Through her involvement in school activities Katie is able to spread her mission to many people, both students and staff. Katie politely asked a teacher to quit using the “R” word and provided her with a button and informational pamphlet so she can spread the word to others. Katie has lofty goals, one of which is to speak to Congress. I look forward to the day that I can sit and watch Katie address this group about the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and awareness. She truly is a shining star and will continue to do amazing things for individuals with disabilities.

When we spoke to Katie we found that two incredible Special Olympics athletes, Kalli and Colby, changed her life.  She mentioned that their high spirits, unconditional love, unending compassion, and extreme perseverance through the challenges of having Down Syndrome impacted her life from there on.  Katie participates in Unified Sports, Special Olympics, and has volunteered at a social skills day camp for Hurst-Euless- Bedford ISD the past 3 summers.  The camp is for students with autism.  Katie now plans to pursue a career in teaching / coaching secondary school special needs students.  We’re so proud of you Katie! 

A few words from Katie

       My name is Katie Pullano and I’m a 15 year old freshman who attends Harwood Junior High School in Bedford, Texas.   It was 4 years ago that I met two people who forever changed my life. Kalli and Colby, both very active in Special Olympics swimming as well as many other sports, impressed me from the day I met them. Their high spirits, unconditional love, unending compassion, and extreme perseverance through the challenges of having Down Syndrome impacted me on the pool deck as we prepared for our race. I am a Unified Athlete with Special Olympics Texas-Greater Fort Worth Area and I’ve been very fortunate to have many rewarding opportunities with some amazing athletes. Beyond just having a great time swimming with some inspiring people I found a passion that had previously laid dormant in me. It wasn’t long after starting my volunteer work with Special Olympics that I found my calling; working with children with intellectual disabilities.

Since meeting Kalli and Colby several years ago my relationship with both of them has grown and developed to a strong friendship. Now, there are very few weeks that go by without my world being lit up with Kalli, who I can honestly say is one of my best friends. Through one of my mother’s work friends, Julie Harrison, I have become increasingly more involved with Special Olympics. I have volunteered and cheered at power lifting, cycling, gymnastics, and swimming. The past 3 years I have enjoyed volunteering and participating in our local opening ceremonies for Special Olympic Games. Every time I go to an event, I meet great new people and have valuable new experiences. I was selected as the Greater Fort Worth Area Special Olympics Unified Athlete of the Year in 2010 for my participation with Kalli and Colby’s team.  In addition to my work with Special Olympics, I have volunteered at a social skills day camp for Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD the past 3 summers. This camp is for students with autism and has created unforgettable memories.  I am a friend, model, and supporter to the many students that participate in this program.

Most recently, and possibly most importantly, I have become very active in the Ban the R Word campaign. By hanging up pledge posters in several classrooms, passing out stickers and spreading awareness of the harm in the word “retard,” I helped to create an accepting and loving environment at my school. In the future, I hope to continue my work with the Ban the R Word campaign at my new high school. I hope to become a special education teacher and coach in a secondary school.  I believe that my experiences with Kalli and Colby have helped me define myself as a person. Finally, through my work with Special Olympics, I have made my decision and goal to further the knowledge, awareness and inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities in schools across the country.

If you’re interested in helping some of the non-profits in which Katie is involved, you can use the links below to get more information and/or make a donation!

If you prefer to use US Post, you can send donations to:

Special Olympics Area 11

6707 Brentwood Stair Road, Suite 218

Fort Worth, TX  76112

You can specify that you want the money to stay in Area 11 and even whether you want it to go to Unified Sports or the Special Olympics program in that area.  We encourage you to go online and look at all the great ways you can help!

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