Devon Adelman is standing up for what she loves and believes in, literally. The dynamic 21-year-old Kaiser Permanente member is competing in stand-up paddleboarding at the 2018 USA Games. She’s also serving as a Special Olympics ambassador for the Games, which are taking place in her hometown of Seattle. “Seattle will show the world that it’s a city of inclusion,” she says proudly.
Devon discovered her love of stand-up paddleboarding last summer. “I’ve skied a lot and I play soccer. I have natural balance, so stand-up paddleboarding came pretty easily to me,” she says. “I love getting out in nature, and paddleboarding is a great way to make new friends.”
So is Special Olympics, she says. “I found out about Special Olympics when I was a sophomore in high school. I was being bullied at school, but Special Olympics gave me a whole new family of friends and helped me feel better about myself. It’s been an amazing, fantastic part of my life ever since.”
Advocating for people with intellectual disabilities led Devon to deliver a keynote address to the United Nations on World Down Syndrome Day in 2015. She even got to meet former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at the White House. Her other passions include marine biology, and she’s one of the first people with Down syndrome to get a scuba certification. “I love being under the waves and the ocean, and seeing all the creatures up close,” she says.
Devon has a message for everyone with intellectual disabilities: “Believe in yourself and follow your dreams and your heart.” And for everyone else: “Don’t judge us by our disabilities. We’re just like you. See our abilities instead.”