~ by Lanesha Reagan
When 18-year-old Shawn Hinz walked onto the stage on Oregon State’s Prothro Field, he was sporting a new haircut and a lot of bottled-up excitement. Facing an audience filled with athletes and coaches from Special Olympics Oregon, Hinz rallied the crowd with his keyboard rendition of a slew of pop songs.
The audience cheered and danced as he started singing Rachel Platten’s hit, “Fight Song”. Before starting, Hinz told the crowd, “This song is about how you should keep fighting, and you should never give up.” It was the perfect theme for the Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games.
Hinz, who graduated from Corvallis High School this June, competed in golf at the games, with his family at his side. The motto of the international organization, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” sums up what it means to Hinz be a competitor, and as a tri-sport athlete and talented musician, he embodies all the things Special Olympics stands for.
The games not only give an opportunity to young athletes like Hinz to compete in athletic endeavors, but brings together people from all over the state, spread out across all ages and backgrounds. Special Olympics Oregon has been so important to Hinz that he struggled to pinpoint exactly why he loves being a part of the organization.
“Just all the diversity of it, everyone that’s involved, the volunteers, the officials, the athletes,” said Hinz. “It’s just such a great atmosphere here, and I love sports, I really love sports.”
Shawn’s entire family supports and participates in Special Olympics Oregon. Kathy, Shawn’s mother, is an assistant coach for basketball and golf, and her son’s head coach for swimming. During the Summer State Games, she volunteered and participated in scorekeeping the Bocce tournament.
Talking about their mother-son coaching relationship, Kathy explained, “If he’s slacking off, I tell him to swim faster.” Nodding his head and chuckling, Shawn agreed.
For the family, the best time of every week is the night of Special Olympics Oregon practice. It’s such an important event for the family, they plan their vacations around regionals and the Summer State Games. The international organization Special Olympics, was created in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and has continued to grow over the years. Now spread across 169 countries, according to Special Olympics international, is creating a new culture of inclusion and community for those with intellectual disabilities.
Close to tears, Kathy spoke about how the misconceptions held by the public about people with intellectual disabilities can be harmful and more than that, deeply hurtful.
“They don’t realize how talented the athletes really are, and how amazing they are as people,” said Kathy. “They have so much to offer our community and our world.”
Hinz, who heads to Linn-Benton Community College this fall, is excited to pursue one of his other passions, music. A year ago, Hinz created a YouTube channel filled with him singing covers of popular songs and his own remixes. His most popular video, with almost a thousand views, is of his performance at Corvallis High School’s talent show, singing and playing the piano to the consistent, inspiring anthem, “Fight Song”.
Hinz plans on studying music at LBCC for the next few years, and after that he wants to teach music to others with disabilities. Music and sports have been two factors in his life since he was young, inspiring himself and others along his path. The future for those with disabilities gets a little brighter with Shawn leading the way.
“To see everyone get the same opportunities to compete in, it’s just really cool,” said Hinz.
Shawn’s YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeYk3SMYdPkccHpSOuFCWcQ
SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/shawn-hinz-312539089