weren’t you the guy on TV?” Myran Tateyama of Pearl City hears that question
a lot, though it has been months since he appeared on a local network to promote
Special Olympics Hawaii.
Tateyama, who made the commercial along
with the organization’s president and CEO, Nancy Bottelo, may
be Hawaii’s most visible Special Olympics athlete. But there are 49 other
athletes statewide who give public presentations and media interviews through
the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Programs.
messengers, as these men and women are called, are moving beyond the sports
competition that is the heart of Special Olympics. They are developing skills
and self-confidence while working to advance the primary goal of Special
Olympics: “To help bring all persons with intellectual disabilities into the
larger society under conditions whereby they are accepted, respected and given a
chance to become productive citizens.”
“We train them to go out in public to speak about Special
Olympics and tell their life stories,” said Melissa Blake, director of special
events and corporate relations for Special Olympics Hawaii. “And we try to
give them the opportunity to have a voice within the organization.”
speaks at meetings and benefit events such as the Jingle Bell Run. In 2001, he
has addressed the crowd at Special Olympics opening ceremonies. Last year he
co-emceed the annual fundraiser, A Very Special Vegas, sharing the stage with
entertainer Tiny Tadani.
spring, Tateyama was named to the Special Olympics Hawaii board of directors.
His role on the board is twofold, said Nip Ho, vice president of area services.
In addition to the fund raising activities required of all board members, he
represents the state’s 1,500 athletes.
the board of directors wants information about how they can affect athletes,
what do they think athletes feel about the decisions they are making or if they
want specific input from more athletes, Myran is the person that is asked to go
out and find that information out for them,” said Ho. “He comes back to the
board members and reports on what he found out.” Tateyama has also proven to
be an effective fundraiser, she said. “He is truly a very active member of the
board of directors and that’s truly because of who Myran is and his family
support system,” she said. “He takes his role very, very seriously.”
representation on the board – a requirement for all certified programs –
reflects the growing influence of athletes within the Special Olympics movement.
For example, athletes made their voices heard recently when they called upon
Special Olympics to reject “mental retardation” in favor of “intellectual
disabilities” – a term the athletes felt projected a more positive image.
In addition to global messengers and board representation,
Athlete Leadership Programs include training for experienced athletes to certify
as assistant coaches and as officials, volunteering opportunities, and Athlete
Input Council that makes recommendations to staff or the board of directors.
by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, Special Olympics grew out of Shriver’s work
for the intellectually disabled as director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.
Foundation. The foundation, established in 1946, has two major objectives: to
seek the prevention of mental retardation by identifying its causes, and to
improve the means by which society deals with citizens who have mental
retardation. In 1963, Shriver
started a summer day camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities
at her home in Maryland to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and
physical activities. From that camp came the concept of Special Olympics.
Olympics athletes must have an intellectual disability and be at least six years
old. There is no upper age limit,
and it costs nothing to participate. “Intellectual disabilities” include
cognitive delays or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive
disabilities resulted from a small stroke that he suffered at the age of five,
according to his father. The stroke caused some brain damage and left him with a
seizure disorder and partial paralysis. “Because he was young, he was able to
recuperate and get most of his mobility back,” said Ray Tateyama. “But it
caused him to have a left side disability.”
with Myran Tateyama, a solidly built 28-year-old with a spiked haircut, it is
clear that his passion is sports and competition. At the State Summer Games this
year, he competed in shot put, 100-yard dash, and standing long jump. His
favorite sports are bowling and bocce.
he is proficient enough at bowling – his score averages 140 and he has bowled
200 on occasion – that he bowls with a regular league on Monday nights.
“It’s not a fantastic average, but he maintains it,” said Ray.
“He cannot slide on his left foot because of his disability – which makes it
very difficult when you’re right handed to bowl and slide on your right foot,
because most people slide on their left foot.”
1996, when he received his special education certificate from Pearl City High
School, Tateyama has practiced weekly with the Terminators, a delegation of
athletes and family members known as a sports club.
clubs were developed for athletes who come out of high school and want to
continue training with a team, explained Nip Ho, vice president of area
services. “Sports clubs are usually programs that are run by family
members,” said Ho. “And Terminators is probably one of the strongest
family-run programs that we have in the state of Hawaii. Probably 99 percent of
the coaching staff is family.”
Tateyama’s teammates include high school classmates Jason Baysa of
Pearl City and Nicole Kelley of Ewa Beach, and their families. Baysa and Kelley
are also athletes and global messengers, and Baysa has teamed up with Tateyama
to do multimedia presentations.
sports club becomes like an ohana, said Ho. “They go bowling together, they
have potlucks together, [and] they have Christmas parties together.”
Tateyama also gets strong
support from his own ohana. His mother, Naomi, helps monitor his anti-seizure
medication and drives him to his part-time job at Goodwill Industries. Mother
and son both volunteer at the Special Olympics Hawaii office from time to time.
For Myran, a quiet man
who is speaks hesitantly, the speeches are a challenge. His dad coaches him
before speaking engagements, and Myran says, “I practice a lot.”
He uses a multimedia presentation that the two of them wrote together.
They received the training from Special Olympics.
“We learned everything
from taking pictures, from doing actual content and editing and how to put it
on,” said Ray Tateyama. “Myran and I together, we did it. We were teaching
each other. . . it was really something to look forward to.”
Ray, a merchandiser for
ABC Stores, gives his wife most of the credit for their son’s success. “She
had been employed, but [after Myran’s stroke] she just decided that her life
was meant to watch Myran and to show support for the family,” he said.
“We’ve decided not to live like wealthy people do. We chose the life that we
would rather all be comfortable, but not suffering, so she’s able to spend her
time with him. So she has dedicated her life to trying to raise him properly and
“Myran’s got a
phenomenal family,” said Nip Ho. “Even with all the skills he has, it’s
very difficult for special needs individuals to reach out into the community
like that without a support system.”
Myran Tateyama summed up
his Special Olympics experience with characteristic brevity. Interviewed after
he threw the shot put at the Summer Games, he smiled and said, “I like doing
this kind of stuff. It’s fun.”
For more information
about Special Olympics Hawaii, go to www.specialolympicshawaii.org or call