MATTHEWS – Special Olympics has been a central part of Robin Callaway’s life for more than a decade.
The Matthews resident, who will turn 28 this weekend, has participated in Special Olympics sports since her freshman year at East Mecklenburg High School. She’s been involved in a plethora of Special Olympics activities for years and was appointed as a global messenger for the organization in 2006.
Now, Robin can add something else to her résumé – serving as an athlete ambassador for the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run Council. One of three athletes chosen statewide to serve on the council, Robin will work with law enforcement officers and representatives to promote, plan and coordinate activities surrounding the Torch Run. The summer event is a 16-day relay passing the Flame of Hope across the state, while also raising funds for Special Olympics North Carolina.
“I think a lot of it is giving back to an organization that has given so much to her, because (Special Olympics) has done a lot for Robin,” Nancy Callaway, Robin’s mom, said.
Robin was first introduced to Special Olympics through a fellow student at East Mecklenburg High, and she’s loved every bit of her involvement with the organization. An avid sports lover, Robin plays tennis, softball, basketball and bowling through Special Olympics. She trains for each seasonal sport up to eight weeks before attending the tournaments, and is involved in at least one sport at any time throughout the year.
When she’s not working at Bonefish Grill or Harris Teeter, Robin stays involved in other Special Olympics activities including the North Carolina Summer Games and the annual Charlotte-area Camp SOAR. She also has the opportunity to share her experiences with the organization through her role as a Special Olympics global messenger.
“I’ve spoken to juniors and seniors (who) help with the local spring games done at Charlotte Country Day (School),” Robin said. “They always have a global messenger go in and speak … I tell them a little more about what they’re going to get their foot into.”
Nancy Callaway has seen Robin, who lives with a speech language disability, benefit from serving as a global ambassador. The role has been an opportunity for Robin to meet new people and make friends with other Special Olympics athletes and volunteers who help with the organization.
“Special Olympics has been more than athletics for Robin – it’s really a social network, also,” her mom said. “… (Learning) how to write speeches and give speeches has been a really good opportunity for her.”
Nancy Callaway also remains actively involved in Special Olympics, serving as the bowling coach for the Mecklenburg County branch of the organization. She sees an average of 70 bowlers during practice season and recently took about 32 athletes to the state competition in Newton. Her role as the bowling coach has given her an opportunity to see first hand how Special Olympics benefits her daughter, as well as the dozens of other athletes and families she works with.
“I honestly don’t know what our lives would be like without the organization. (Robin) wouldn’t have the network that she’s got,” Nancy Callaway said. “When you’re a parent of a special needs person, you have to think about their life separate from yours, and hope they’re going to find a path – and I really feel like she has.”
Though Robin isn’t sure what her duties on the Torch Run Council will be, she’s looking forward to working with the law enforcement officers on the council, and is eager to see a side of Special Olympics she hasn’t previously been a part of.
“It’s the community – (finding) a couple of guys that never got introduced to Special Olympics (and) kind of inching them to figure out what they can do to put their dent in the community,” Robin said. She hopes to use her position on the Torch Run “to let people out there know (those) that have special needs are able to do sports.”