Handley High School in Winchester made a special commitment to its student athletes — those with and without intellectual disabilities — in June when they presented Special Olympics athlete Shane Weagley with his own varsity sports letter.
Shane, a 16-year-old junior, is the first person who has never played a varsity sport at the school to receive a Handley varsity letter. Shane’s seven medals in Special Olympics basketball, volleyball and softball, however, allowed him to meet the requirements to receive it.
“I was kind of a little bit nervous, but I’m happy and being proud of what I do in the sports and Special Olympics. And I’m glad to be in the Special Olympics family,” Shane told reporters for WHSV Channel 3 in Winchester.
Shane’s parents also told the television station that they were proud of their son and that they were glad his athletic successes were being recognized by his school.
“Everybody just loves him so much. They see what we see in our son and that’s the most enjoyment I could ever receive,” Paul, Shane’s father, said.
Debbie Massie, one of Shane’s Special Olympics coaches, said he was very deserving of this recognition.
“He truly cares about the achievement of the team, not just about how well he does. He has the courage to try things that he has never done before,” she said. “He works hard at every practice and keeps an upbeat attitude. He works well with his coaches to improve and gives 110 percent in whatever he is participating in.”
In addition, Debbie said Shane has a spark of resilience and determination that sets him apart.
“At his very first practice with Area 13 two years ago, he got hit in the face with the softball pretty hard. A lot of athletes would not have come back, but not Shane. He used it as a learning experience and has worked hard to improve his softball skills,” she said.
Debbie said the decision to award Shane with a varsity letter started when the coaches on the Special Olympics Area 13 council came up with the idea of a high school student being able to earn a letter through his or her involvement in Special Olympics. A few members of the council approached the Handley athletic director, and the school was very receptive.
“Handley was very open to the idea and about working together to develop the requirements, using the requirements that all Handley students have to meet to achieve an athletic letter as a model,” Debbie said. “Special Olympics sports are very much supported at Handley.”
Handley High School’s inclusive attitude can be an example to other schools and public organizations in the area and across the country. By appreciating the gifts of those with and without disabilities, they have helped bring everyone a step closer to a world free of labels and discrimination.
Shane receiving his Handley High School varsity letter.