In Oregon, bocce athlete and Kaiser Permanente member, Samantha Lee, who goes by Sam, is preparing for her first time competing in the Special Olympics USA Games on Team Oregon. Sam has also previously participated in bowling and golf at the state level. And while she enjoys competing, the lifelong friendships she’s made and the confidence gained from learning what she can do — rather than focus on what she can’t do — have been priceless.
“I love Special Olympics because I get to meet new people and make lots of new friends,” says Sam. “Playing bocce helps me feel better about myself, and people cheer for me even if I don’t win because that’s what friends do.”
Sam’s cousin, Kim Carlson, has worked as a nurse across the country in multiple regions of Kaiser Permanente, and now resides in Los Angeles, working for Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region. She’s headed to Washington to volunteer in the upcoming USA Games, and to cheer Sam on.
“Special Olympics has allowed me to see Sam on a different level,” says Kim. “I’m not attending the Special Olympics USA Games because of family obligation. I’m attending the Games so that I can see my cousin share her talents with others and to remind us all to live in the moment. I love that Kaiser Permanente is sponsoring this event and supporting a moment to let my cousin shine.”
Sam’s mom, Vickie, is also grateful for the self-confidence that Special Olympics has brought her daughter, and the amazing people and coaches that volunteer their time with the organization.
Sam encourages others to give it a try, “I think anyone who wants to play a Special Olympics sport should find a sport and play. It’s important to never give up or quit trying. The more you practice, the better you get, and there is always someone cheering for you whether you win or lose. Just trying makes you a winner.”