In one game, a visiting team had a young lady struggling to keep up
with the game. She wasn't as fast as everyone else, and sometimes by
the time she got down the court, action had switched and she found
herself struggling to get back into the game on the other end of the
At one point while she was struggling, the ball rolled out
to her about 12 feet from the basket. Taking it off the floor with
both hands, she winged the ball into the air. One second later it
went through the hoop, giving her team two points. She raised her
arms in triumph as teammates flocked around her. The coach,
appreciating the moment, called a timeout to let the youngster bask
in a special moment longer than if the game had to continue. It was
obvious this was a rare if not "never" moment in the youngster's
As teammates jumped up and down, as happy for the young girl as
she was, parents in the stands were celebrating as well. A
misty-eyed mother held tight to her husband's right arm, and the
father turned, telling another parent behind, "We'll have to live
with this for a long time."
Turning back to his wife, he kissed her on the cheek as they both
reveled in a special moment that only parents, caregivers and the
special athletes themselves could understand.
These special moments happen every day in Special Olympics
events, and they are what make the program so… well, so "special."
Eleven years ago, Ryan Curry found out what that feeling of
helping special people felt like, and he has been the bedrock, the
foundation of our local Special Olympics program ever since.
Ryan has a job selling seed and fertilizer as well as a
landscaping business called Curry Professional Lawn Care. He and his
wife, Kim, have three small children, Grace, Brooklyn and Isabella.
That much on his plate would be enough for most young men
approaching 30 years of age, but it isn't for Ryan Curry.
Ryan is the hub: the coach, the planner, the driver and the
athletic director of the Lincoln Special Olympics; and the jobs keep
him busy when he isn't busy being a businessman, husband and father.
Ryan said that now that another basketball season is over, track
and field will begin next week. In two months softball season will
begin. Then in August there will be bowling, and in October another
basketball season will get under way. All of this activity is
overseen by Curry, and in many circumstances, if not for Ryan's
involvement, the activities would have to be canceled.
For over a decade Ryan has been involved with Special Olympics
locally, but it wasn't something he planned to do.
Ryan was in high school and said that he didn't have any personal
reason for getting involved with special-needs residents. He
admitted he had never met anyone like that before in his life until
one day while a high schooler.
As a member of the Holy Family Church, a group including Ryan
went to LDC to help residents paint pumpkins. "I had such a great
time, I just wanted to get involved," he said.
The summer of his high school senior year, Ryan worked as a
coach, and thus began his 11-year commitment to the special people
who look to the Special Olympics as their source of athletic fun and
Pat Caveny-Nye, who has been involved with Special Olympics since
1988, can't say enough about how Ryan has taken the program and how
hard he has worked.
"Ryan started coaching while in high school, while I was at State
School. He is the most compassionate person, an absolutely good
man." said Caveny-Nye.
When Pat transferred to Logan-Mason Rehab, Ryan came also to
continue volunteer working with the Special Olympics as well as
working at the rehab center.
Pat says Ryan's coaching technique is perfect for the special
needs athletes: "He is wonderful. The kids all love him. He never
raises his voice, and he has a knack of being able to explain
something so it's understood. He has such integrity for such a young
man. I just don't know how to say all I feel about Ryan except that
God sent him to me."
Gene Frioli, director of the Logan-Mason Rehab Center, feels as
much passion for giving accolades to Ryan as Pat does. "I am
thrilled that Ryan is receiving recognition," Frioli said. "While
working here, Ryan did a phenomenal job, and that continues with his
efforts in Special Olympics. Ryan has this addictive quality that
makes his athletes feel comfortable that he is going to remain in
Frioli says that when LDC closed, employees and thus volunteers
were lost for the Special Olympics program, and Lincoln could have
lost the program if not for Ryan. "Ryan took over," Frioli said.
"The program could have just sat or died if it hadn't been for Ryan.
He has this fire in his belly to help our disadvantaged. He has this
sense of what's important in his life and is so focused for a young
man his age. Like I said, I am just thrilled that Ryan is getting
recognized for all he does."
[to top of second column]
At this past weekend's Polar Plunge, those involved with the
plunge were delighted to add accolades for Ryan and his efforts.
Joanie Keyes, executive director of Illinois District 10 Special
Olympics, said she admires Ryan's commitment. "He is a young father,
he works hard, yet he gives hours upon hours to be involved with
Special Olympics," she said. "I couldn't ask for a better person to
be behind the Lincoln Special Olympics.
Dan Fulscher, whose Emergency Management Agency is an active
sponsor in the Polar Plunge, said: "When people think of volunteers,
they often think of volunteers for emergency services. But Ryan
Curry sets a whole new benchmark for what a volunteer is. He is
definitely a role model and someone we truly are fortunate to have
living among us."
Roger Matson, owner of Action Rental and Sales, is also very
active in the plunge and was voted the Spirit Award last year for
all his efforts in the first Lincoln Polar Plunge. The award goes to
the person who best embodies what the Special Olympics is all about.
This year, Roger passed that award on to Ryan Curry. "You have to be
a special person with perseverance, determination," Matson said.
"You have to be special to do what Ryan does and he is."
Kevin Curry, Ryan's cousin, says Ryan is an amazing person. "He
doesn't know a stranger. He just has this way with people." Greg
wanted to bring in the fact that behind every great man there is
also a great woman. "Kim helps a lot," Greg said. "She supports Ryan
and helps whenever she can, like today at the plunge."
But Ryan needs more help than just his wife. He is committed to
the 50-some athletes who call him friend as well as coach, but he
knows as his own daughters get older, their activities will require
some of his time.
"I really could use some help," he said. "We need coaches so that
in the future if one of my daughters has a soccer game, I can go to
it knowing the teams are still being taken care of."
With so much on his young shoulders, many young men would have
said it was too much and walked away from the program. But that
isn't in Ryan's makeup.
"If you could see the way these guys compete. The joy in their
faces when they get their medals for competing, the happiness it
brings them. It's worth a million bucks," said Ryan.
"They show up after a day's work to practice, and they have these
huge smiles on their faces. They already have had a long day, but
they still practice hard. They just know how to enjoy life." Ryan
We agree that those special athletes do know how to enjoy life
and the games they play. And we know it is directly because of the
commitment of one young man, Ryan Curry.
It is because of Ryan's determination to help others that we are
proud to make him our Personality of the Week.
Ryan needs volunteers to help. Practices are one day a week with
games on weekends. There is flexibility in when practices can be
held, and the more volunteers who become involved, the easier it
will be to maintain the many programs Ryan is currently handling.
To find out more about being a Special Olympics coach or
volunteer, you can contact Ryan at 671-5296. The Special Olympians
in our community need you to become involved.