Bridget Leary – 2017 Special Olympics NC December Athlete of the Month

Behind Bridget Leary’s twinkling smile and bubbly personality is the determination of a warrior.

Born with an eye condition that causes issues with her corneas, Leary has been cautious about eye safety her entire life. Three years ago, she even had to have a cornea transplant. However, Leary never allowed her vision to slow her down.

Committed to being an active member of her community, Leary has volunteered at events through her school from a young age. Whether it’s hosting a Thanksgiving feast for school board members or volunteering at her local animal shelter, there isn’t an activity or event that she would turn down.

Her open-minded nature has helped her make connections to last a lifetime and even led to her current position with a local Ingles Supermarket, where she has now worked for 13 years. While at work, she puts cookies on the tray to bake, then puts them on display or in the packages once they have cooled down. Her favorite part of the job involves packaging the bread and putting it on display.

However, her community involvement goes beyond volunteering and her job. Leary decided to put her infectious personality to even greater use by joining the cheerleading team through her high school and UNC-Asheville.

“She’s really a born cheerleader and loves cheering on other people,” says Leary’s mother, Wilma.

However, soccer remains her favorite sport and the source of her fondest memories with Special Olympics.

“I like to run up and down the field,” Leary explains. “It’s hard to kick the ball down the field, but it’s my favorite thing to do.”

Yet Leary knows firsthand that sports, like soccer, can be dangerous. Just this year while playing soccer at the 2017 SONC Fall Tournament, Leary was accidentally hit in the face with a soccer ball. She instantly feared that something had happened to her eyes, yet was relieved to find out that her glasses had protected her corneas.

Deciding to sit out for the rest of the game, Leary knew she was strong enough to get back out on the field. When it was time for the next game, Leary went to her mom and her coach to say, “I’m ready, I’m tough!”

Though the ball hitting her in the face was scary, her determination helped win her team the game. Now when she looks back on that memory, she doesn’t think of the fear she felt as the ball hit her, but rather the pride she felt receiving her medal with her team. She remembers how thrilling it felt when the medals, gleaming in the sunlight, went around their necks.

When she isn’t on the soccer field or cheerleading mat, you can find Leary at Special Olympics victory dances. From the time the music begins until the last song is over, Leary will be grooving along to the beat and encouraging those around her to do the same.

For Leary, there is no better way to end a long day of working, volunteering or competing than with a little dancing!

Congratulations on being named 2017 Special Olympics NC December Athlete of the Month, Bridget!

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