January 9, 2017 | 11 a.m.
By Whitney Bak ’15, content specialist
This fall Patrick Elmore '18 started in the Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development (BUILD) program—a two-year, residential program for students with intellectual disabilities that focuses on academic, vocational, residential, and social learning experiences. Elmore dreams of someday working as an equipment manager. And not just for any team. “For the Wild!” he proclaims, a zealous grin creeping up his face.
Though Elmore’s love of sports can be traced back to childhood, his recent experience as both an athlete and representative for Special Olympics Minnesota has only fueled his passion—and qualifications—to pursue a career in the sports industry. But while he continues to work toward his goal, Elmore’s involvement with Special Olympics is already making a major impact at Bethel and throughout the state.
Elmore is one of two Bethel BUILD students who have undergone training through Special Olympics Minnesota’s Athletic Leadership Programs (ALPs), qualifying him to take on speaking engagements as a representative for Special Olympics. In November, Elmore completed the most advanced ALPs leadership course—“Athletes as Ambassadors”—earning him the title of global ambassador for Special Olympics. “It’s very rigorous [training],” says Elmore. “You have to learn communication—learning how to spread the word of Special Olympics through conversations.”
In the past three years, Elmore has had a deep involvement with Special Olympics. He jumped into Lake Calhoun in the middle of March 2016 for Special Olympics’ annual Polar Plunge fundraiser; he ran the torch—“the flame of hope”—for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles from Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis, to TCF Bank Stadium; and he earned a gold medal at the Special Olympics state competition in 2015, where he and his basketball team rounded out an undefeated season. But his journey to becoming a leader and speaker for the organization has been record-fast. In order to become a global ambassador, Special Olympics athletes must complete—or prove proficiency in—three of ALPs intensive trainings. Patrick began training in October 2016, and quickly excelled. “He’s done a good job, he’s shown he can handle it, so he’s gotten more opportunities,” Director of BUILD Dawn Allen says.
As a global ambassador, Elmore writes his own speeches and attends one speaking engagement a month. Most recently, he spoke to the crowd at Augsburg College’s football stadium during their October 8 game against Saint John’s University—where Augsburg was supporting Special Olympics’ “Spread the word to end the word” campaign—on how use of the “R” word has impacted him. Elmore also spoke at the 30th Special Olympics Minnesota Distinguished Service Awards, where he presented the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) with an Outstanding Service Award.
“[Being a global ambassador] gives Patrick an opportunity to speak and interact with many diverse groups,” Elmore’s parents, John and Kristen Elmore, write. “He is very open in sharing his story—which will hopefully influence others regarding the use of the ‘R’ word—promoting inclusion, and promoting Special Olympics.”
Classmate Maggie Erickson '17 is also a speaker and leader for Special Olympics Minnesota, having completed the second-highest leadership training to become a global messenger for Special Olympics. She aspires to complete her ambassador training within the next year, but her plans don’t stop there. “My goal is to speak for the president,” she shares, believing that true awareness and equality for athletes with disabilities won’t come until the whole nation stands behind the cause.
In the meantime, both Elmore and Erickson will continue their involvement with Special Olympics, using their experiences with the organization to strengthen the business (IT) skills they are learning in the BUILD program. At Bethel, the two hope to build connections, spread awareness, and pursue opportunities to get other students involved with Special Olympics as volunteers or part of a Bethel unified sports team.