“Going for the gold” has a special meaning for Special Olympians and their partners. WINK News anchor Lisa Hutson talked with Florida’s Unified Soccer Team about their goals and scoring.
Kevin Reynolds has played soccer in Lee County for years. Now he is the president of the UCF club soccer team, and to meet his volunteer hours, he and a few classmates decided to team up with a few Special Olympians and offer some coaching tips.
What they got was an inspiring experience of winning gold with their new best friends.
“This is the gold medal from our USA Special Olympic National Games,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds knows his way around a soccer field. “We figured if we are going to volunteer, we might as well do something that we are good at along with something we enjoy.”
His passion for soccer made him the perfect teammate and coach for Cesar Aponte.
“We’re like brothers basically,” said Aponte. “We don’t only talk about soccer. We also talk about like our life, our college. Kevin has a new girlfriend.”
What started as a little practice help became a family after 10 days of competition at the Special Olympics in Orlando.
“We realized pretty quick, just like Silvia did, that we really meshed with them really well and maybe we were a little bit better at coaching them just because we have more experience,” said Reynolds.
“At night, I’d get a text message on the phone coach we are going down to get snacks, and they would send me a list of who all was going, and it was all of them. They all went together,” said Coach Silvia Haas.
Haas says on Saturday, she didn’t even tell her team they were playing for the top prize.
“That’s me and Gary. We won a gold medal from USA games,” said Aponte.
Aponte said the highlight of the trip was when Gary scored with an assist from Reynolds.
“In the second game, I remember I passed him the ball, and he shot and scored,” said Reynolds.
“Kevin knew it was a dream for me. And I did. When he came to the bench, I gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, and thank you for making my dream come true,” said Haas.
“It was something extremely special, so I’ll always remember it, and it was certainly one the proudest moments I’ve had in my career,” said Reynolds.
A new goal for Reynolds is getting more college athletes to volunteer because when it comes to brothers, the more, the merrier on the pitch.
“Now they consider us friends. We consider them friends, and the idea of unified sports is something we’ve all become really passionate about,” said Reynolds.
This August, Reynolds and Aponte will travel to Minnesota to compete in the Unified All-Star Game.