PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Japan isn’t the only place where you’ll find Olympians competing this month.
Pasco County has its own group of athletes with aspirations to win gold — not in Tokyo, but in Orlando — during next year’s Special Olympics.
Every time Chip Smith drops back to pass, he likes to channel his inner Tom Brady.
“I’m the quarterback, two-time MVP, go for the gold, championship,” said Smith.
Chip is one of ten players to make up the Pasco Dolphins flag football team. After years of winning first place in state competitions, they have been invited to compete nationally at the 2022 Special Olympics.
“This is beyond belief, it is phenomenal, it is mind-blowing, it is a chance of a lifetime,” said Karen Thomas who has a son on the team.
For these players, it’s so much more than just a sport.
“It gives them life experiences, it gives them socialization,” said Thomas.
These athletes can’t make it to the games on talent alone, they are constantly fundraising to pay for the trip.
“I do love the community support because we do get out there and when people see me practicing with the kids they are all for it and they can’t wait to help support,” said assistant coach Amy Selvey.
One of the team’s biggest fans has been the Pasco County Tax Collectors office, which has helped raise $6,600.
“They get this opportunity to participate, to do the things that not only they are good at but do things that other young people are able to do, and we want to make certain that they are able to continue this program for years and years to come,” said Tax Collector Mike Fasano.
These players understand they have a great opportunity to shine on the national stage. The games aren’t until next June, but the Dolphins already feel like winners.
For more information on how to help support all the special Olympic athletes from Pasco County click here.