Reaching her dreams

The sports were just the beginning; Special Olympics also has given a Center Grove woman the skills and confidence to tutor children, volunteer at a children’s hospital and spread the word about their programs.

Chelsea Davis played sports for eight years, and also has helped encourage and coach other athletes, attended semiannual leadership trainings and spoken multiple times about Special Olympics. She’s won Johnson County Special Athlete of the Year and the central Indiana award for Special Olympics Family of the Year, too.

The state has taken notice. Davis, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild autistic traits, was selected as the only Special Olympics athlete out of thousands in the state to represent Indiana on Capitol Hill next week.

Davis will get a chance to tour the national Special Olympics headquarters and meet with Indiana’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said Special Olympics Indiana marketing and development director Kelly Ries, who will accompany Davis on the trip. State programs make a trip for Capitol Hill Day each year, and Indiana only selects one athlete each year to go on the trip, Ries said.

She’ll also meet with other athletes and program leaders from around the nation and get to discuss their individual programs and athletes. She hopes to be able to promote Special Olympics to Indiana’s lawmakers and learn more about what other states are doing for athletes, which she’ll be able to bring back to Indiana, Davis said.

It’s another exciting opportunity. Special Olympics is all about opportunities, giving kids and adults that chance they might not otherwise get, she said.

“That gives you a chance. It gives you the experience. I love doing the sports and it gives you the confidence to do what you want in life,” Davis said.

Davis’ average week is booked solid with volunteering and work. On Mondays, she volunteers at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, helping run the information desk or running errands around the hospital. On Tuesdays, she’s tutoring a fourth-grader with ADHD who she’s been helping for two years. Wednesdays and Thursdays she helps watch kids during a women’s program at her church. And she’s worked a part-time job at Pizza King in Greenwood for the last year, too.

The trip to Washington, D.C., will be another chance to take a leadership role. Athletes from programs all over the U.S. will attend a training to brush up on skills on how to meet and speak with public officials, then put those skills to use attending events and meet-and-greets to spread awareness about Special Olympics, share information about the challenges people with mental and physical disabilities face and ask for continued support of federal special needs programs.

“This is a good experience for me. To get to go and represent Indiana, it means the world to me,” Davis said.

Davis got started in Special Olympics at first because she just wanted that chance to compete.

She was interested in sports in high school, when some of her friends were playing on different Center Grove teams. Davis hadn’t played before and struggled to focus in classes. But the volleyball program brought her on board as a manager for the school’s team for four years. It was the best opportunity to be involved with the team, she said.

She started in Special Olympics by playing basketball — admittedly not her best sport, she said — but has since found her groove competing in swimming, bowling, volleyball and softball.

Since Davis is extremely high-functioning, she’s also been able to enroll in additional Special Olympics programs, including the Athlete Leadership Program. People in the program attend an academy twice a year to learn skills, such as how to put together PowerPoint presentations and how to give public speeches about Special Olympics, then take those skills back to their communities to spread awareness and promote the program.

She’s spoken at county Special Olympics board meetings, given presentations at her church, presented at Greenwood and Edinburgh schools and spoken to members of the Heartland Athletic Conference.

There’s more challenges ahead. Davis next wants to learn how to drive, move out of her mother’s house and be more independent. Special Olympics has given her more chances and skills to really make those goals attainable, her mom Linda Boothe said.

“It makes me feel proud, and I think it’s fulfilling for her to be able to do these things. It builds her confidence,” Boothe said. “It makes us see the potential going forward.”

The Davis file

Name: Chelsea Davis

Age: 26

Home: Center Grove area

Family: Mother Linda Boothe, stepfather Mike, sister Kristen, brother-in-law Sam, niece and nephew, three stepbrothers and one stepsister

Disability: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild autistic traits

Activities: Special Olympics, volunteer at Riley Hospital for Children, tutoring, baby-sitting and part-time job at Pizza King

Sports: Bowling, swimming, volleyball and softball

Favorite sport: Bowling

Hobbies: Spending time with niece and nephew, jewelry making, texting and emailing friends

Goals: Learn to drive, move into her own place