Archive for Moose Lodge

The Special Olympics: My Interview with Nancy Brown

Posted in Downtown Bristol, Family, Local, Special Olympics with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2011 by Divide By Zero

My deepest apologies go out to Ms. Brown, the Special Olympics, and everyone involved with them.  I was supposed to have this article written about 2 weeks ago, but I just got over the worst bout of the flu I think I’ve ever had.  I also wanted to make it to the Bowling competition that was held this past weekend.

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct honor to interview Ms. Nancy Brown.  She is a wonderful and generous woman who gives a lot of her time, and herself really to supporting the local Special Olympics; a cause that is very near and dear to my heart.  She was so nice that she told me all about the Special Olympics in detail not only once but twice.  Let me explain:

Upon being welcomed into her office, I explained to her that since I didn’t know much about the local Special Olympics, I didn’t really have any interview questions prepared for her.  So she divulged a lot of information to me in detail.  I was amazed at how much was involved with this one organization!  It’s like our entire community backs the Special Olympics, helps out in every aspect, and supports it 100%.  I felt very proud to be a part of this community when I heard all of this, and this article is the very least I can do to show my own personal support, and hopefully to bring other people’s support to the Special Olympics, either in donation or volunteer form.  Like I said, this is a cause very near and dear to my heart.

Once Ms. Brown, was finished telling me about everything involved with this locally, I was in shock.  Then I calmly said: “Could you repeat that for me once I hit the ‘record’ button?”  She kindly obliged.  Here’s what she had to say:


Del Dotson:  Okay this week, I’m here with Nancy Brown. She’s going to tell you all a little bit about herself and what she does here at the college and also how she’s affiliated with the Special Olympics, and she’s really just going to take it from here. So here she goes!

Nancy Brown:  Well I’m an Assistant Professor at Virginia Intermont. I teach in the education department, and my specialty is that I make the program for special education teachers. For young people that are going to use special education in their teaching profession. And I help them get into the program that includes their course descriptions, and getting their certification and their endorsement in special ed.

I also teach some psychology with the exception of childrens classes. That goes along with our education program also. Since 1974 I have worked in Special Olympics. And Special Olympics is the sports program for individuals who have intellectual disabilities. It’s really dear to my heart, because it gives all of us an opportunity to provide [sports] programs for those individuals and let them have a successful experience.

I am the coordinator for Area 10’s sports programs which includes all of Southwest Virginia. We’ve got 2 events that are coming up in just a few weeks, actually. March 5th we have our bowling competition at Interstate Lanes. We will have between 70 and 80 athletes that will come in to bowl from all over Southwest Virginia. Our youngest athlete is going to be about 12 to 13, and our oldest one is going to be in their 70’s.

Then in April, we’re going to have our Spring games. We have a Track & Field competition that’s going to be April the 16th. Once again, we’re going to have about 125 athletes from all over Southwest Virginia. They will participate in wheelchair events, they will participate in running events, softball throw, shot-puts, and we will have ages probably 11 through 75. It’s a big day at John Battle [note: a local high-school] because we have a lot of key volunteers that come in to participate and sponsor us. The Knights of Colombus will usually be represented in some form. The Knights of Colombus will help us in our bowling competition. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the VFW always does the opening ceremonies for our Spring games, and that’s just such a privilege. We have had an athlete do the National Anthem for us for the last 2 or 3 competitions, and that’s just.. it’s a heart-stopper.

Oh, we have some wonderful key volunteers, we have a bunch of colleges that come and help us. Emory & Henry has sent volunteers, King has, my own VI [Virginia Intermont] has. One of my real good friends here on campus actually runs the competition for me. The education department gets involved with us. The photography department here at VI did coverage for us last year. We generally have wonderful media coverage from both WCYB and the Bristol Herald Courier.

We do take donations to run the program. We’re very conscious that we want to run the program for our athletes, so we do take donations that helps pay for state events. We try to make sure that we take our athletes up on Thursday, so they don’t have to travel all day Friday and get really tired. So we do try and raise money so that we can cover a third night of motel bills. Plus covering the rest of the expenses. We usually end up taking between 30 and 40 people to state games. That includes the athletes, coaches, and the volunteers, which is a good group. We try to take the athletes who have done everything that they have needed to do to train and get ready for state games. We want to make sure that we take athletes whose parents are comfortable with letting us take them away for 3 nights. We make sure that they, themselves are comfortable with being gone. We like to take athletes who have trained, and trained hard for what they’re doing.

DD: Right.

NB: This is something… We don’t take this lightly! It’s not something that we just throw out there. We really take this very strongly, it’s something that means a lot to all of the people involved. Because we know that our people can succeed, we just have to be there to give them the opportunity.

DD: That’s awesome. And can you.. I mean you mentioned a little bit before [Read: before I started recording the interview.] about the history of the Special Olympics here in Bristol.

NB: Yes. Now we had started, I think in 1974, we had a wonderful special ed teacher here by the name of Ruth Thrash, and a special ed director by the name of Calvin Durting, who saw the need for this to begin here. I was a young teacher, and they let my young legs take care of them. They’re the ones that really got us off to a beginning, and we just held it in place. All of us became involved with Ms. Thrash and Mr. Durting, and they built a strong core, and after all these years we’ve still got a strong core. We’ve got a family here by the name of Jim & Anna Combs, who have been involved as long as I’ve been involved.

DD: Wow.

NB: They started out with me in ’74, and ’75 and they’ve always been there. They go to the state games most of the time and we have got other people that have been involved now for about 20-25 years. We’ve got a lady in Big Stone Gap, her name is Joyce Gilbert who has been involved a loong time. And she brings a strong support group with her from Big Stone Gap. And that’s the neat thing about what you’re doing.. is that these blogs and things that you do, they see them over there where they are.

DD: Right. [I felt really humbled by Ms. Brown telling me this]

NB: And, when you mention certain names like Ms. Gilbert, Darlene Dean in Smith County, there’s a group from Crossroads Point that’s got a really strong coordinator, her name is Melanie. You’ve got a lady by the name of Deb Greene, who’s very strong in Wise County, and you’ve got people in Tazwell.

DD: I think I’ve met Deb Greene, I’ve spent some time out at Uva Wise.

NB: Oh, do you?

DD: Yeah, small world.

NB: She brings her athletes, I think at Uva Wise.

DD: I think so, I think you’re right.

NB: And Deb, she is just a great, great lady. Her church is a big support group, I forgot what the name of it is. They’ve been a big support group, and you’ve got people like Virginia Goodson, you may have heard of Ms. Goodson…

DD: It sounds familiar.

NB: She’s on City Council, no not City Council, on the School Board here. I think she came off last year, but she’s been a big support system for this group. Abingdon Civitan with Ms. Lee Price, I mean there’s just… I go down through and I think about all the people [involved].. You probably know this family, the Campbell family.

DD: That’s ringing a bell, but I can’t place them.

NB: Bill [Campbell] was over the City Bus system for years. Bill and his sister JoAnne, they were the ones that bowling program so strong here in Bristol. You know? When you start looking at it, these people that are involved with us, they’re not fly-by-night people, okay? They’ve become a part of us. Year after year they come back. It’s not like they volunteer one year and then they’re gone. You’ve got Jack Wisenberger who has been involved with us now for a number of years through the Knights of Colombus. That group.. They’re just wonderful people! And without them, I honestly, I probably would have given up a long time ago.

DD: They just make everything so easy?

NB: They do! I almost feel guilty when I’m the one that’s interviewed. It makes me feel so humbled because I know I’m representing them.

DD: Of course.

NB: And without them.. it’s just a big team, we all work together.

DD: Yeah, and like I’ve said before, I didn’t really know anything about all this stuff. And just you mentioning all of those names, and telling me about all of these organizations that support this so strongly, it’s just… it makes it seem like it’s a whole lot bigger to me now, than 10 minutes ago when I came into your office.

NB: Well, what’s so great about it for me as a person is.. I moved here to Bristol in 1969. I’m a farm girl from Middleton. And I love this area because this area gives to it’s people.

DD: Yes.

NB: I came here as a young teacher, and here I am now the old.. OLD teacher. Haha, I don’t like to admit it, but I am! And people still are there for me. I’ve got people that volunteer for us, and with us, year after year after year. I had a group to call me, the Moose Lodge, from Abingdon, called me last week. They chased me down from last week about helping us. It just thrilled me to death because I know organizations have hurt for money the last 2 or 3 years. NHC called me and said they would like to get involved. Well you know, these are groups that, I know a lot of these people but I’ve just never been involved with them over stuff like this. To have those and the other organizations that have backed us, it’s just been a blessing. That’s all I can say is it’s just been a blessing.

DD: It sounds like it!

NB: They call and.. there’s some people that call and say “Don’t. Forget. To call us. You’re getting ready to have Spring games…” I can’t say enough for the people that are involved. This is not an organization that… you don’t get burnt out. I don’t know what it is.

DD: I know what you mean.

NB: I have got athletes that are in their 50’s and 60’s now, that started out as young kids with me.

DD: Wow.

NB: And this young man that’s in this wheelchair [Ms. Brown has a poster of a past special olympics event hanging up by her desk, she pointed to it]… I started out working with him when he could walk and run just like you and I. And he was not much bigger… I could pick him up and throw him over my shoulder.

DD: See, that’s incredible.

NB: And to watch him today, and still, I can maybe not even see him for years and walk in to where they’re training, and they’ll holler at me and say: “HOW YOU DOIN’ MS. BROWN?!” You realize, Yes(!), you’ve made an impact on their lives because they still remember your name.

DD: Exactly.

NB: I do.. It’s in my blood, and I’ll probably stay in it until the day I die.

DD: That’s inspiring. Well God bless you. I know if it weren’t for people like you, and the people you’ve mentioned, none of this stuff would be possible.

NB: that’s true.

DD: I’ve worked with people with disabilities before, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that and it is, it’s really rewarding. It’s more rewarding than just giving money to a charity, or donating clothes to the Salvation Army, or something like that. You develop a really special bond, and it’s one of the quickest ways to see rewards, and it makes them feel worthwhile. And it makes us feel worthwhile.

NB: It does, and you know, there’s a lot of things that I think you see that they really get out of it. It’s that they are just so appreciative.

DD: Yeah.

NB: Whatever you do, OUR Special Olympians, and they’re representative of all individuals with intellectual disabilities, they do appreciate.

DD: Yes.

NB: And they let you know. They have a warmth about them. I know that the Kennedy family established this because of their sister Rosemary, I know that’s when they saw the need. But they stuck with it. I remember last year, when I was introduced to Timothy Shriver, who I guess is now the President/CEO, of Special Olympics, because I think he took over for his dad Sarge & Mrs. Shriver, and I looked at him and I thought of how humbled he seemed to be as a young man following in their footsteps. I’ve had an occasion with my involvement in Special Olympics to be around some of the Kennedy family in the Special Olympics arena. Never with the politics and things that they have been into, but they have been to games and things where I have been, and that was the impression that I got of all of them. That they were genuine, and they did love that aspect of their lives.

DD: Yeah. And they were sincere about it?

NB: They were sincere about it. That’s what I read out of him [Mr. Shriver], just like the rest of them. I remember the first time, I guess it was, that I ever saw part of that family was at an international game in New York. And then, here all these years later I see him and it’s just like you’re looking in the face of where you looked at them 30 years ago. Good feeling. Good feeling.

DD: Oh man. Well, I think that about covers everything

NB: Okay.

DD: Thank you very much for your time!

NB: I’m glad you came by!


I’m really glad I got to interview Nancy.  After typing all of that up, I really don’t think there’s anything I can say that could sum any of that up, or even supplement it.  I personally thank everyone involved with this cause and anyone who donates money to the people at the Special Olympics.  I think it’s good ot end on that note, and with this:

If you’d like to donate to the local Special Olympics here’s the information:

Area 10 Special Olympics

C/O Nancy Brown

35 Timber Ridge Rd.

Bristol, VA  24201

I really urge anyone to donate, because there’s a world of people that are going to benefit from it.

I hope I was able to get people more involved!

The Jester.