“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Thirty years ago, when Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro Athlete Rodney Parker first took the Special Olympics Athlete Oath, he decided he was going to take it seriously.
“It became a life thing,” he explains. “Before that, everyone told me I couldn’t do anything and Special Olympics gave me a chance to show people I could bravely attempt anything.”
Parker’s tenure as a Special Olympics athlete began several decades ago and he attributes his initial successes to one of his first coaches.
“Mr. Stone was the first person who took the time to show me the fundamentals of basketball and softball,” Parker mentions. “He cared about my success and saw a spark in me that no one else did. He’s still my favorite; probably always will be.”
Throughout his career, Parker has competed in athletics, basketball, bowling, golf and softball.
“My favorite sports are softball and basketball. I love the back and forth action of basketball. I have a seven-foot wingspan and I can palm the ball,” he exclaims. “People call me ‘Moose’ because I can make a softball explode 400 feet when I hit it!”
His favorite memory was representing Special Olympics North Carolina in the 1999 World Games when his team competed in softball and won the silver medal.
Beyond the accolades he’s collected throughout his years of training and competition, Parker has emerged as a leader in his local program and community. Not only does Parker volunteer at all local events, he is also a Global Messenger and serves on the Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro Athlete Council. Parker has participated in as many fundraisers and events as possible, but recently he decided to take it a step further and raise money to go Over the Edge.
His fear of heights made Parker anxious about the 30-story rappel, but when he got to the top of the Wells Fargo Capitol Center in Raleigh, he knew that all of his training had prepared him for a moment like this.
“I wanted to give back. I am afraid of heights, but I used Over the Edge to face my fears and I just went for it!” Parker says.
When he isn’t competing, Parker works at Twilight High School as the school’s only custodian. Though he knows how to clean and do the maintenance work, his favorite part are his interactions with the students.
“I don’t have any children of my own so the students are like my kids,” he says. “Every time I see one of those kids walk across the stage at a graduation, I feel like a proud dad!”
In 2014, he was even recognized as the Employee of the Month.
“That blew me away,” remembers Parker. “I didn’t set out to do that, I only do the job to better myself and the people around me.”
His spirit has made an impression on those around him and for that, Parker credits Special Olympics. He often speaks to others about how Special Olympics gave him a platform to show the world what he can do.
“When someone tells us that we aren’t capable of doing anything, we have to remember the oath,” he explains. “We must be brave in the attempt. I have lived my whole life by that oath.”
Using the confidence developed during his time as a Special Olympics athlete, Parker makes it a priority to educate his community that everyone should be patient and love one another every day.
For Parker, his journey with Special Olympics is far from over. He plans to complete his coach’s training in bowling and coach at Summer Games.
“My coaches over the years have been such a big part of why I believe in myself. I want to give that same feeling to other athletes. I feel very called to coaching because of this,” he explains.
He also wants to host fundraisers for the Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro program to ensure that athletes in his communities receive opportunities that will help them grow as he did.
“I have been blessed by this community of people and I want to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity I have had,” Parker explains. “After all, Special Olympics athletes are like Ninja Turtles: we can do anything!”
With 2018 being dedicated to a year-long celebration of Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary, Parker is excited to see how not only the organization grows in the next 50 years, but how he continues to grow, too. Here’s to many more years of being brave in the attempt!
Congratulations on being named the SONC 2018 January Athlete of the Month, Rodney!