It is commonly said that the shortest distance between two people is a smile. For Special Olympics Craven County athlete, Paul Scharf, smiling is his only way of connecting with others. Paul is nonverbal and communicates through his subtle grins and facial expressions. His smile shares with others that he is relaxed in their presence and feeling positive.
“You can see the smile on his face recognizing that people are cheering him on,” John Scharf, Paul’s father, said. “Recognition by everyone is key to making it a special moment.”
Paul has been participating with Special Olympics for nearly 14 years competing in bocce, bowling and swimming. Special Olympics has allowed Paul to find friends and feel accepted; for a nonverbal athlete, that has been extremely important.
“Special Olympics provides him with inclusion within the community that wouldn’t have been there before,” John said.
Paul works tremendously hard to improve his sports skills and training every day. He and his swim teammates understand they are not the fastest but their camaraderie and encouragement amongst each other is a reward beyond any medal.
“They’re a team that knows they are slow but they stick together,” Scharf’s dad said. “Paul knows that he is part of the team and he loves that.”
Apart from his competition training, Paul volunteers much of his time in his community. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus – Father Kenneth Parker Assembly #1820 in New Bern. After years of hard work and finding different ways to give back to the community, both Paul and his father were knighted together.
“Paul is a very famous person within the city,” John said. “I’m known as Paul’s dad!”
Paul’s involvement within the Knights of Columbus has also extended to include others. Charles Knight, a fellow SONC athlete, was brought into the civic organization through the recommendation of both Paul and his father. Charles’ sister, Maria Knight, was also recommended to join the Catholic Daughters, a similar civic organization but for women.
“Whether it’s SONC or Knights of Columbus, he knows he’s included,” John said. “It’s the one thing we’ll keep doing as we go forward.”
Congratulations Paul Scharf, the 2014 December “Athlete of the Month”!
Ice Cream – Paul can’t decide! He just loves all desserts.
Vacation – Anywhere he goes to visit family!
Animal – His dog Spike was his best friend!
Sports Team – His swim team!