By Matt Vaghi
For Daniel Widing, sportsmanship and teamwork have had a profound impact throughout his life.
Daniel, who is a member of the Farmington Valley Special Olympics Program, has been extensively involved in Special Olympics since he was 7 years old. Originally from Delaware, Daniel and his family moved to Avon, Connecticut, and have enjoyed their experience with the Special Olympics program.
Although Daniel participates in a multitude of spots, his favorite sports to play are soccer, basketball, and the one he loves most, floor hockey.
“I like the equipment, the shin guards, the helmet, and using the stick,” said Daniel. “It is fast and fun and I love it.”
To Daniel, winning an athletic event is not always the ultimate goal. Rather, putting in a total effort and abiding by proper sportsmanship are the defining characteristics of athletics.
“Most important to me is good sportsmanship,” he said. “I learn sports and play hard for my teams. We learn to keep trying and to show that we are good sports even if we do not win.”
In addition to playing sports, Daniel is also a Special Olympics Connecticut Global Messenger. Global Messengers are athletes who spread the message and vision of Special Olympics that they have learned from their participation. They strive to convey the powerful messages of hope, acceptance, dignity, and courage that Special Olympics demonstrate on a daily basis. They represent the countless of other courageous athletes who are equally involved with Special Olympics.
“I am experienced to be a Global Messenger,” Daniel said. “I care about people and people make me love it very much. I am very proud of who I am."
Daniel has also served as a Law Enforcement Torch Run Ambassador and was awarded the Special Olympics Spirit of Life Award in 2006. Daniel, however, credits much of his success to his many friends, who have been outstanding teammates in his endeavors.
“I have so many friends in Special Olympics,” he said. "My friends and coaches are really another family for me, and families help each other. I love to be with friends. We support each other and play against each other.”
Friends are not the only teammates that Daniel has—his immediate family is perhaps his biggest supporters. Daniel’s father, Jon Widing, is reverentially proud of all that his son has accomplished.
“Dan has accomplished much in his 39 years and has enjoyed his share of public applause,” Jon Widing said.
But the part that delights his parents most is his genuine capacity to support others, build team spirit, and simply his delight in belonging.In his spare time Daniel enjoys to walk, write, and go to the mall and the movies. He is also the chief bagger at the Big Y World Class Market in Avon, where he treats every customer like a best friend.
"At Big Y World Class Market I care about customers where people come first,” he said.
Daniel is truly a team player who values hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude toward all people and aspects of life. He and his family are grateful for the role that Special Olympics has played in their lives.
“Most of Dan's peers and best friends are Special Olympics athletes and partners,” Jon Widing said. “Participation in sports as an athlete and speaking on behalf of Special Olympics as a Global Messenger have greatly broadened, deepened, and enriched Dan's life. As parents, we are indebted to Special Olympics Connecticut for providing Dan an avenue on the way to becoming the truly unique, joy-filled and productive young man that he truly is.”
Editor's Note: Matt Vaghi, a senior Springfield College in Massachusetts, wrote this article, which was posted by Nora Mason. Matt is completing a summer internship with Special Olympics CT in the Southbury office.