When an athlete steps into their arena, they become part of a team, utilizing their skills and talents for the common mission of clenching the win. This couldn’t be more true at Special Olympics, where athletes of all skill levels are celebrated for every win — even if it’s as small as simply having the courage to give sports a try — since it was established in 1968.
Becoming a Special Olympics Star
Brittany Tagliareni, a Seminole County resident, is a top ranked Special Olympics Florida tennis player who discovered the organization while on vacation in Hilton Head with her family. While there, her mom Cathy Tagliareni saw a sign for a Special Olympics tennis tournament, an opportunity she didn’t realize was available to her daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age.
Brittany was familiar with the game and had played with her brother, so Cathy looked into it and signed her up at home. Now, 12 years later, she has multiple USA Games and three World Games under her belt, has earned a gold medal and is an honorary ESPY winner.
Inclusion in Athletics
“It’s a huge thing, not having friends or peers who were like her. She hung out with her brother and her brother’s friends, but no one related to her and her challenges,” Cathy says. “I think we both feel that the athletes, coaches, volunteers, everyone in the Special Olympics world, was very welcoming.”
Brittany notes that she has met a lot of new friends who support her through Special Olympics. Not only has her participation broadened her tennis skills but it has helped her to come out of her shell, built her confidence and selfesteem, and helped her evolve as a person as well as an athlete.
“Everybody likes to be accepted and embraced. I think that’s a worldwide thing,” Cathy says. “I think Special Olympics embodies that. They accept who you are and embrace you. They don’t focus on your disabilities; they focus on your abilities.”
The Special Olympics Experience
Special Olympics offers a positive environment for all athletes. Even more, their experiences with the organization shape their lives outside of sports.
“Brittany now has friends, things to do, things to look forward to,” Cathy says. “She gets messages all the time on Facebook. She doesn’t get that she’s a role model.”
Special Olympics Florida is currently hosting its Race for Inclusion campaign to support athletes just like Brittany. Through a series of fundraising events, participants can help create communities of inclusion and acceptance while celebrating the incredible potential of people with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit www.RaceForInclusion.org.
Get to Know Brittany Tagliareni
Hardest thing about tennis: The serve
Favorite thing about the Special Olympics ceremonies: Walking in the Parade of Athletes
Favorite post-competition food: Hamburgers and pasta with Parmesan cheese
Future athletic goal: “I want to get better in competition.”
Main motivation: “I want to go to Berlin.” (The 2023 Special Olympics World Games will take place in Berlin, Germany.)