16 Nov Bozeman Special Olympics athlete and coach release a Special Olympics book!
Bozeman Special Olympics athlete, Ruth Spinelli, and her coach, Alean Skinner, released their first book in October about the impact the organization has on people who are involved with it. Using responses to a survey completed by more than 200 athletes, coaches, family members, volunteers and staff; the pair created Hearts and Souls of Special Olympics.
Ruth Spinelli has been participating in Special Olympics since 2014 when she moved to Bozeman, Montana. Ruth has amassed a pile of medals and ribbons competing in Montana’s local and statewide games in triathlon, equestrian and basketball. She has been a global messenger for Special Olympics Montana since 2015.
Special Olympics “changed my whole life and my meaning of disability,” she says. “I didn’t realize there were a lot of people like me. It didn’t feel like I had an extended family in Virginia the way I feel about my friends in Special Olympics.”
A former special education teacher, Alean Skinner started out volunteering with SOMT in 2005 coaching one of her students. She has been on the Big Sky area management team as an athlete leadership program manager which includes coaching athletes like Ruth in public speaking.
In 2017, Ruth told Alean she wanted to write a book and asked for her help. “We felt like if people read these stories, they’d all find something to relate to and they would get how important Special Olympics is to the athletes,” Alean says. “Special Olympics helps with so much more than just keeping athletes fit.”
It took them about six months to create questions that would get more than just yes or no answers, and came up with queries like: ‘What is your best memory of Special Olympics?’ and ‘How has being involved with it affected your life?’ Then they needed permission from Special Olympics Montana to distribute their printed surveys at various events. Bob Norbie, the executive director at the time, was instrumental in helping them, Alean noted.
For Ruth, publishing the book has been a goal for at least 10 years. “I feel like a professional writer or something,” she says. “It was one of my dreams. I like to write and I would like to change the world with how people understand people with disabilities.”
Working with Ruth has been a joy, Alean says. “She’s probably my best friend. We do a lot of things together beyond the book.”
The authors will be donating a portion of the book’s sales to SOMT and are planning at least one sequel about the effects COVID-19 had on its population and how it changed the organization. “We think it should be documented,” Alean says. “Some of the athletes have regressed as a result of the lack of social interaction.”
Ruth and Alean will appear on KGLT radio with JoDJ who will speak with them about their publishing journey and their experiences with SOMT. You can hear their discussion at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 22.