Locals ready for Special Olympics
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Jun 13, 2014, 11:56
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From left to right: Richard Cuevas, Tosha Moneymaker, Bryan Coon.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — As the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games are about to begin on Saturday, three local athletes from Colonial Heights have been chosen to compete on a national level for Team Virginia.
Bryan Coon, Richard Cuevas and Tosha Moneymaker will travel among 85 athletes and coaches from Virginia to participate in the weeklong national Special Olympic event from June 14-21 in New Jersey.
Bryan, who is turning 20 years old in about a week, has been a Special Olympic athlete since he was eight years old and will be swimming in the national event.
Having suffered through seizures every three or four days for the majority of his life, Bryan has overcome monumental obstacles to be able to swim, and “through God’s grace,” has only suffered one seizure since he was 16, according to his father, Tom.
When he was almost 17, Bryan passed a swim test at the Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina, a camp for children with serious medical conditions and illnesses.
It was at this point that Bryan realized he wanted to be on the Special Olympic swim team, a goal that has become a reality, “something that we’d never thought we would see,” Tom said.
On top of being selected for Team Virginia, Bryan was also selected prom king and will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall as part of the ACE-IT program.
Tom said that Bryan is very excited to be competing in the national event, and that the Special Olympics organization has done so much more than provide an outlet for athletics for Bryan, but instilled a presence of confidence and social interaction that might not exist otherwise.
“Special Olympics is a community. It’s not just a sport,” Tom said.
Bryan said that Special Olympics athletes have much to prove to the world.
“If they can look past our disabilities, they will find many abilities,” Bryan said, as stated in his online athlete profile.
Tom is the coach for both the Special Olympic bocce ball and track/field teams in the Colonial Heights community, so he has coached all three athletes who are representing Virginia from the city.
Cuevas, Special Olympic athlete of eight years from Petersburg, will be competing on the bocce ball team next week.
Tom said that Cuevas is one of the best athletes he has ever coached, who used to excel in track events until he had multiple knee injuries that have kept him from doing so recently.
Because of these injuries, Cuevas transitioned to bocce ball, and is constantly seeking methods for self improvement as he looks toward the national games on Saturday.
“I am always trying to be a better athlete and team player,” Cuevas said in his online bio on the Special Olympics website.
Cuevas enjoys being a team player and meeting new people, and likes the Special Olympics atmosphere because it allows for him to compete and enjoy sports at the same time.
Moneymaker, 31, of Colonial Heights, has been a Special Olympic athlete for two decades and will be competing in the track and field events for Team Virginia.
This is the first time that Moneymaker has been to the national event, and the first time she will have been out of the state, and she was “totally shocked” when she found out she was chosen to compete, according to her mother, Vicky Jones.
To prepare for the competition, Moneymaker has been going to track practice one to two times every week for the past year, in addition to walking on her own around the neighborhood and exercising in the house, Jones said.
Moneymaker will “give it her all,” but she also “loves the social interaction, and she loves to meet new friends,” Jones said, emphasizing the impact that Special Olympics has had on her daughter’s intellectual, social and verbal growth.
“It’s like a family. It’s just like her big, extended family,” Jones said.
Moneymaker likes new experiences and is excited to compete in New Jersey.
More than 3,500 Special Olympic athletes from throughout the United States will compete in the event.