Special Olympics: A Tri-State Star

This summer, athletes from all over the Hoosier state will make the trip to Terre Haute for the Indiana State Special Olympics.

One of those athletes will be Evansville native Jennifer Ford.

Despite being born with down syndrome, Jennifer has competed in the Special Olympics for 35 years.

"When Jennifer was born, doctor's said I was going to have to institutionalize her, that she would never do anything," said Jennifer's mother.

"Well I just didn't go for that."

It all started at the age of 12, when Jennifer took up gymnastics, which was coached by her mother, Bonnie Brothers.

Eighteen years later, gymnastics ceased being a Special Olympic event, so Jennifer made the switch to track & field.

After seven years of running track, Jennifer decided to focus her talents on bocce ball, which she's been competing in for the last 10 years.

"Special Olympics has been great for her. I mean, it has given her confidence," said Brothers.

"It's helped her in other things in life. Now she has a job, she works a Schnucks. I mean, just things that I would never thought she would have done. She's made me so proud with some of the things that she has accomplished."

Over her 35-year career, Jennifer has collected several impressive accolades.

In 1991, Jennifer and Bonnie were named the Indiana Special Olympics Family of the Year.

Jennifer even represented Indiana at the 1999 International Special Olympics in North Carolina.

She won gold, of course.

"I tell people at once in a lifetime, you should go see the international games," Brothers said.

"They all [athletes] just come together. All of these countries, they're all there for the same reason, and we have breakfast with them and go to dances, and nobody thinks anybody is different."

In Jennifer's trophy room, you can find shoe boxes full of medals, but winning isn't everything.

Jennifer simply enjoys competing and spending time with her friends.

"I always used to say, I wish that doctor that delivered Jennifer was still around, but he's deceased not, but I wish he could see her today."

 


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