When Special Olympics North Carolina athlete Jay McCullen, from Onslow County, was born, doctors said he would never walk, never talk, never be able to eat by himself. Today, 20 year-old Jay not only can do all those things, but he also plays Special Olympics softball, competes in Special Olympics equestrian competitions and cheers for basketball.
Jay started competing in Special Olympics at the age of four through the Young Athletes Program. Young Athletes is a Special Olympics inclusive early childhood sports and educational play program for children ages 2 – 7. For the past 16 years, both he and his family have been heavily involved in Special Olympics; his mother Dawn is even the Special Olympics Onslow County local coordinator. Through Special Olympics, Jay has also attended a week-long summer camp. Camp Shriver is designed to provide a normative, fun, camp experience for young people with intellectual disabilities, to enhance the sports skills of the campers, and to provide an inclusive environment by also including partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities). At Camp Shriver in Onslow County, Jay was able to try surfing, canoeing, and sailing. While there, he also met his best friend.
“Jay’s best friend attends victory dances with him as his date, and they’re even going to prom together this year!” Jay’s mother comments. “That has been the most life-changing experience for him through Special Olympics.”
Jay has an infectious personality, making an impact on everyone he knows. “Jay can strike up a conversation with anyone,” his mother recounts smiling. He uses his personality to enthusiastically come out and support fundraising efforts for Special Olympics. He has also participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, running alongside and encouraging the law enforcement officers as they raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics throughout the county.
You can find Jay at Special Olympics opening ceremonies and victory dances, dancing and singing and encouraging others to do the same. “He’s all about having a good time! That’s what life is to him,” says his mom.
Congratulations Jay McCullen on being the Special Olympics North Carolina March 2016 Athlete of the Month!
Day of the Week: Sunday
Car: Volkswagen Beetle
Musician: The Temptations
Sports Team: Carolina Panthers