When complete, a jigsaw puzzle transforms the cacophony of many individual pieces into a melodious unit. The edge of each piece comfortably finds its match, a resting place of familiarity.
The puzzle pieces that compose the essence of Special Olympics Davie County are no different.
Although scattered in the midst of social distancing protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes awaited the day they would be together in their place of familiarity.
Local Program Coordinator Katie Brewer strategically connected those pieces in the form of delivering wellness bags to the 26 athletes unable to participate in the 2020 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games or the Cheerleading Tournament.
Set to send an impressive delegation to compete at Summer Games in athletics as well as three cheerleading teams to compete at the Cheerleading Tournament, Davie County athletes looked to silver linings in adapting to their new reality.
Significant pieces of Special Olympics Davie County’s puzzle, Justin Draughn Construction LLC and a local Cricket Wireless franchise have been an impactful force in this initiative to illuminate silver linings, purchasing the items placed in each wellness bag.
“Justin and his wife are really supportive of the Special Olympics community,” said Brewer.
“The thing about him is that it is not always me having to ask him for help, he is often coming to me asking for ways to help the athletes.”
Embodying the elements of mental, physical and emotional wellbeing, each bag contained a variety of products relating to those spheres. Equipped with hand sanitizer, sunscreen, stress balls, healthy snacks, playing cards and exercise tips, this toolbox is symbolic of Special Olympics North Carolina’s push for promoting healthy living at home.
“Inside the bags, we provided hope for the future, hope that we would be able to continue doing things together in the near future, even if those things don’t look like they normally would,” said Brewer.
Special Olympics Davie County athlete Dakota Tuttle was of the many recipients of these bags. Mother Debra Tuttle, a Special Olympics coach, was more than grateful for the gesture.
“We appreciate everyone who made the bags possible,” said Debra. “It was special, especially for someone like Dakota who worries and stresses and doesn’t completely understand why everything changed drastically in one day. We will be glad to be reunited with our Special Olympics family when it is safe.”
The tangible components of these bags are representative of an even greater movement, one of community support in the wake of crisis. In extending a helping hand to Davie County athletes, Justin Draughn Construction and Cricket Wireless have reinforced the healing power of togetherness.
“I feel like this is a story about community,” said Brewer. “It is a story about small businesses during these tough times finding ways to feel connected and engaged by reaching out to these isolated populations.”
A community college professor and construction businessman, Draughn connects puzzle pieces professionally across the state of North Carolina. Although his work is focused on specialized building projects, his altruistic nature reaches far beyond construction.
“My family and I are advocates for inclusion and community in all aspects of our lives,” said Draughn. “We believe in pulling together to support each other through tough times. The wellness bags for athletes are a step in that direction. We look forward to our continued partnership with Special Olympics Davie County in building connections.”
Accustomed to working with individuals with intellectual disabilities in her professional experience, Brewer has found that her career has also been a foundation for cultivating civic-mindedness.
“I first got involved in Special Olympics when I found myself at the very beginning of my career working with individuals with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities, finding a way for them to feel like they belong and fit in,” said Brewer. “For many years, I was a volunteer, always for Davie County. I was raised in Davie County, I work in Davie County and now I raise my family in Davie County.”
Though Brewer’s puzzle has expanded quite a bit, she works tirelessly to ensure that the final piece is intact.
“My number one goal is for there to be connection, finding a way to unite and connect our athletes and keep those connections strong and in place,” said Brewer. “The community that they get from Special Olympics is one of the biggest things that they have lost and my goal is to ensure that we reconnect and we stay connected.”