Vince Egan is a 19-year old graduate of William J. Palmer High School in Colorado Springs. He has been involved with Special Olympics Colorado for more than 10 years, and his participation is vast from being a member of the SOCO State Youth Activation Committee to competing in basketball, bowling, golf, flag football, softball and playing for the Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Unified All-Star team.
Meeting Vince now, you may not know the outgoing teenager was ever a quiet kid struggling to feel comfortable around other people, but that’s exactly where he was before he and his mother, Karen Egan, made what eventually became a life-changing decision.
“I wanted to find something for Vince to get involved in but I wasn’t sure Special Olympics was the right fit because Vince is high functioning,” Egan’s mother explains. “After the first practice there was an obvious change. The kids on the track and field team were just like Vince, and he made friends immediately. Actually, some of the friends he made on that first team remain some of his closest friends today.”
Vince communicated non-verbally for the first four years of his life and struggled to fit in on his sports teams prior to joining Special Olympics. This made it difficult to showcase his athletic talents because he wasn’t able to focus on his play, and he wasn’t comfortable around his teammates. Now, he is quick to volunteer to speak publicly. After giving a speech at a School District No. 20 event, a man approached Vince in disbelief. The man had known Vince years ago and couldn’t believe the quiet kid who rarely spoke was now giving powerful speeches in front of dozens of strangers.
“Many of the milestone moments in Vince’s life have happened because of Special Olympics,” Karen says. One of those moments happened when Vince, previously homeschooled, told his mom he wanted to go out for the Palmer High School Soccer team. He was selected for the team and developed strong friendships with his teammates, so meaningful that he enrolled at Palmer High School. He later tried out for the golf team and earned a varsity letter.
Now that he’s graduated from Palmer, he remains actively involved in the Unified golf PROGRAM and enjoys weekly golf outings with his former softball coach/unified golf partner Jim Egolf. Over the years, Egolf has watched Vince mature physically and emotionally.
“Vince is an outstanding golfer,” Egolf explains. “Two of the things Vince does well now is stay calm on the course and remain strong mentally by not focusing on a bad shot. We play golf every week with a lot of guys. He fits in with everyone, and he can play with all of us.”
Jim and Vince have developed a special relationship, “It’s funny to say we’re such good friends because I’m 70 and he’s 19, but we are – we’re part of each other’s families now.”
Now that Vince has graduated from high school and is transitioning into the next step of his life, he wants to keep sharing with others what is special to him. While he doesn’t know exactly where his future will lead, he will CONTINUE to compete in Special Olympics. He is interested in getting into coaching – something that doesn’t come as a surprise to his former high school teacher, Mike Hagen.
“I really saw a huge growth in his social interaction,” Hagen says. “He actually took it upon himself to help other kids in the class, I didn’t have to ask him, he did it on his own – that was really cool. I think his mindset has taken him to a place that in the future he’s interested in being a coach and helping kids who started with Special Olympics, and now, he wants to help others.”
Hagen is thankful to maintain a strong relationship with Vince after graduation, and the fact that Vince takes it upon himself to stay in touch and go on the occasional golf outing is something his former Special Education teacher finds inspiring.
Of all of the opportunities Vince has cherished through Special Olympics, two of them stand out – competing on the Colorado Rapids Unified All-Star team and attending an invitation-only VIP U2 concert in May of 2011. Vince was one of the select Special Olympics athletes who got to hang out with then-starting Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, meet several other celebrities and watch U2 perform in an intimate setting. “The U2 concert was amazing,” Vince explained. “I got to meet Tim Tebow and enjoyed the concert with other Special Olympic Athletes. The Unified Rapids team has been a lot of fun too, I get to travel to other cities and compete against other All-Star teams from across the country.”
Karen says, “I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have these opportunities through Special Olympics, and now he has the rest of his life to live as the confident and outgoing person he has become.”