Recently, the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club welcomed a very special guest speaker, Emma Venerdi, who is not only a Special Olympics bronze medal winner and Global Messenger for the organization, but Nassau County Inspirational Athlete of the Year.  Emma, who is a 16-year-old freshman at Fernandina Beach High School, has been a Special Olympics athlete in both swimming and track and field for eight years.  Her specialty is swimming both the 600 meter butterfly and freestyle for which she won her bronze medal at the state games.  Emma said that the Nassau County Special Olympic swim team began with only eight members, but has since grown to 25.  Emma’s mother, Lori, also spoke to the club, noting that recruiting more athletes and coaches for Special Olympics in Nassau County is a top priority.  Currently, the county has some 80 athletes, but could accommodate many more.  Emma has trained as a Special Olympics Global Messenger and speaks to schools and other organizations to encourage participation.  Emma closed by saying that Special Olympics has provided her with wonderful opportunities to make life-long friends and strengthen her leadership skills.

Special Olympics Florida was founded in 1972 to provide year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual challenges.  The organization’s goals are to help athletes achieve physical fitness, self-esteem and the life skills necessary to be productive, respected and contributing members of their communities.