Many of our honorees end up finishing second when they put sportsmanship first. Kaleb Carter and Carla Collins ended up with gold, silver and a Musial.
In June, the pair teamed up for bocce ball at a Special Olympics competition in Douglas County, Ore., and were thrilled to win the gold medal. Only after the ceremony, when the scores were double-checked, did officials realize that a scoring error had been made and that Kaleb and Carla should have finished second. Special Olympics rules allow the participants to keep the medal, despite the error. But when their coach, Jill Fummerton, informed Kaleb and Carla of the mistake, the two had other ideas.
“There was no hesitation,” says Jill, Special Olympics manager for Douglas County. “Carla stepped up and said, ‘Well, why don’t we just give them their gold medals?’ and Kaleb said, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’” So the pair went to the team wearing silver medals from Josephine County and placed the gold medals around their necks. The pair from Josephine County then removed the silvers and placed them around Kaleb’s and Carla’s necks.
“It meant more to me to give them what they deserved,” Carla said at the time. Though Carla knew exactly what to do instinctively when someone had been wronged, she was speechless when learning that she would be awarded with a Musial for doing the right thing. Carla’s mom burst into tears. “She shared that as a child, Carla was picked on and bullied,” Jill says, “but she’s talked to Carla for years about perseverance and was so happy that Carla was rewarded for never giving up on kindness.”
The Musial also is extra special to Kaleb, whose dad died last year. “His mom has really been trying to focus on kindness and doing the right thing. She was so touched that this was recognized,” Jill says. Neither Kaleb nor his mother have flown before “so coming to the Musials is a huge experience for them.”
After the excitement of the Musials fades, Kaleb and Carla plan to focus on the bowling season, then reunite for another try at bocce gold. Jill, who has worked with Special Olympics for 30 years, will again serve as their coach. “I think quite often, people with disabilities aren’t given credit for their emotional depth, so I think people are surprised that they would take the initiative to right a wrong,” she says. “But I’ve seen so many athletes fall and then watched the athlete next to them stop to help them up. In Special Olympics, you see more of the love of humanity.”