“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa
Many Special Olympics participants struggle with communication, but one very Special Olympian has found a way to speak for countless others.
A man of few words, Neal Joyner, 42, prefers to let his actions do the talking, choosing to spend his free time raising money to help others pay the costs associated with the Special Olympics.
It is an idea that got its start right here in Surry County, Joyner’s mother, Dorothy, said.
“(The Special Olympics) were needing money really bad, and the lady who is the secretary in the parks and recreation department came up with the idea of sponsoring athletes,” she said.
The younger Joyner, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, took that mission to heart and appealed to the employees at Winston-Salem’s Inmar Enterprises, where he has worked for nearly two decades in the mail room.
“They were really supportive,” his mother said, noting that Joyner raised more than $1,800 this year by appealing to his co-workers, friends and family. “Neal carried a brochure with a photo of him on it asking for their support and everyone came through — especially the employees of Inmar.”
And it’s an effort that isn’t going unrecognized.
Last year, Neal Joyner was named Athlete of the Year at the local level, where he competed in the softball throw and the long jump. On the state level, he competes in swimming and basketball, and has traveled the country through the program.
Asked how many medals he’s earned over the years, Joyner shrugged and suddenly box upon box of medals appeared.
“I’ve won a lot,” he said sheepishly.
Daniel White, the local Special Olympics coordinator and director of the Surry County Parks and Recreation Department, said Joyner deserves all the accolades he can get.
“It’s hard to verbalize how much he means to the local Special Olympics,” he said quietly. “He means so much to me. Neal Joyner is an amazing person, and it’s funny because I hear from people in the community talking about Neal and what he’s doing for others.
“It just makes you proud.”
White said he “wished (he) had about 10 more just like him.”
“He’s helped countless athletes by sponsoring them through his efforts in the Adopt an Athlete program,” he said, noting that it costs $38 per year per athlete plus travel expenses, uniforms and other associated costs. “He’s just really come through and has been a shining star and an example for others by sponsoring other athletes as well as himself.”
Asked why he works so hard for others, Neal Joyner shrugged.
“I want to help the people so they can go and the program can continue,” he said, noting that “it’s important.”
Joyner has participated in the Special Olympics since 1978, and through the program has had the opportunity to travel far and wide.
“It has taught me a lot,” he said. “It’s taught me about getting along with other people and it’s fun! I love the medals and get to be with people and go to the State Games. We get to see different people and I love meeting the girls who come to the Olympics.”
Joyner said he hopes others will get involved in the Special Olympics.
“I’d like to see other people help out and support (it) so everyone can be a part. It takes money and a lot of people can’t afford it,” he said.
Asked how long he plans on participating, Joyner was emphatic.
“Forever and ever,” he said. “I hope some day that I’m there when I’m so old that I can’t get out of my wheelchair.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.