Washington Welcomes Special Olympics Athletes

Part of Andrew Fowler’s day was spent signing autographs and chatting with fans.

On any given day Andrew Fowler can be spotted at work bagging groceries at the Gig Harbor Fred Meyer. But after work, Andrew can be found training for his upcoming track and field competition: The Special Olympics USA Games. From July 1-6 Seattle will host the Games where more than 4,000 athletes from across the country will gather to compete in individual and team events. 

Andrew was born three months premature and today lives with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema. With emphysema, the lung tissue and air sacs are gradually damaged, which forms COPD, making it difficult to breathe. Yet Andrew doesn’t let this hold him back as he enjoys not only competing in track and field but flag football and basketball. He also enjoys cooking and spending time with his friends and family. 

In the upcoming Games, Andrew will participate in the 50 and 100-meter speed walking race and standing long jump. When asked how he’s feeling about the Games Andrew said, “I’m excited…It took me a long time to get here and I’ve made it all the way.” He’s also looking forward to learning more about how to best compete and the chance to meet new people. While Andrew trains for the gold his ultimate goal is to go and compete in the Special Olympics World Games, which will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2019. 

As the Games draw closer one of its sponsors, Comcast, has hosted events across the state to honor the athletes competing and give fans a chance to meet them. On Saturday, June 16, Andrew and Aaron Cozzie, a swimmer competing in the Games, were the stars of one of these events held in Tacoma. At the event, they greeted and talked with fans, signed autographs, took photos, and showed off their medals. 

Staff from both Special Olympics Washington and Comcast gathered to support Fowler and fellow Games competitor, Aaron Cozzie. Photo by Joseph Walsh

With the Special Olympics USA Games being held in Washington, the event will help to raise awareness not just for local athletes but for the organization of Special Olympics as a whole. “With 4,000 athletes coming from across the nation, and 250 of them being from Washington state, it’s a really great opportunity for us to highlight our athletes’ abilities and what the program has to offer for people with and without disabilities,” said Mary Do, vice president of development for Special Olympics Washington. “The USA Games are a great opportunity for anyone to come down…to check out how incredible inclusion can be.” While Do believes the sports component of Special Olympics is essential, it also serves as a foundation for athletes to gain skills which can be used both in competition and everyday life. 

One of the Special Olympics main themes is inclusivity and celebrating people’s unique abilities. Speaking with Comcast’s director of community investment and external affairs for Washington, Diem Ly, for Comcast to be an official sponsor of the Special Olympics USA Games was a must. Ly explains how similar to the Games, Comcast also strongly supports the inclusion and respect of all people. “That culture of respecting and accepting and including people of all abilities… that’s something that we also want to amplify and exude externally too.” Comcast also recognizes how important and necessary it is for individuals, like Andrew and Aaron, to be supported and to show them respect through events where they can be recognized for their athletic abilities. Ly is proud to have Comcast as a sponsor for the Special Olympics and is excited for the Games to showcase the message of inclusivity and acceptance. “To have anything that supports people of all backgrounds, of all abilities on this scale…is really inspirational.” 

The Special Olympics USA Games will take place in Seattle from July 1-6. For tickets and more information go to www.specialolympicsusagames.org.

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