The 2019 Special Olympics World Games begin on March 14 in Abu Dhabi. Patti Ballew, a 47-year-old powerlifter here in Amarillo, is headed to the international competition.
It’s taken years for her to get here. “I did Special Olympics for 15 years, and then powerlifting for almost three years,” Ballew explained.
Coach J’Nette Thorne will be heading to the games with Ballew. She has been training with Ballew for years. They go to Amarillo Town Club about five days a week.
“We start with some stretches, then we go to the machines for her legs. From there we use the equipment and then we use the machines for her arms. Then we’ll go downstairs and work on her form because if her lift is good, but her form is bad, then her lift wouldn’t count,” Thorne explained.
Thorne coaches 125 Special Olympics athletes in our area. Her mother and sister started Advo Companies here in Amarillo back in 1991.
“Advo Companies is a residential and workshop facility. We have 24 group homes,” Thorne explained.
While Advo Companies provides the necessary components for work and home, Thorne said Special Olympics provides a powerful tool: socialization.
“Patti was shy before Special Olympics, she wouldn’t even really talk to anyone,” Thorne explained.
Ballew’s sisters, nieces and nephews are always her biggest cheerleaders. “My family is all proud of me, my sister is on cloud nine,” Ballew said.
Her nephew Chris passed away last year just before nationals. This year at the games, she’ll be honoring the nickname he gave her.
“He called me the beast,” Ballew said, with the meaning behind the nickname being that she can do all things. She hopes to inspire others to do the same.
Ballew leaves for the games on March 5. Athletes have to pay their own way there, and her employer, TJ Maxx, actually awarded her a special scholarship worth $5,000 to go toward her trip.
There are still other expenses, of course. To purchase one of her t-shirts, you can click here.