As a competitor, Special Olympics Delaware athlete Brian Perry sources his strength from connections with others.
At surface level, swimming is an individual sport, relying on oneself to garner a favorable outcome. Brian recognizes that his selection to represent Special Olympics USA in the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 was not a feat accomplished alone. His parents, siblings, friends and coach, Markus Johnson, did their part from the edge of the pool.
“He’s been in the water since he was 3 or 4 weeks old at a YMCA in Pennsylvania in a program for babies,” said Christine Perry, Brian’s mother. “We started him really young.”
Now, at 43 years old, Brian continues to train regularly with Markus at his YMCA in Delaware. In the passing of those four decades, his passion for the sport has not wavered. He says, “I’m very happy in the pool.”
“Coaching him is a pure joy,” said Markus. “He comes in with an attitude of wanting to get it done and wanting to do more than what I tell him to do, and I appreciate that. He listens, he takes in what I am saying and he applies it.” In turn, Brian added, “He’s a good coach.”
His affinity for being around people started at a young age. Growing up, his parents advocated for his enrollment in traditional high school classes. With the help of a full-time aide, he attended the same high school as his sister and brother, where he would become the first person with Down syndrome to graduate from the school.
“That was a big step back in the 90s,” said Christine. “We were paving the road for all these younger people to just do that normally, to truly be inclusive.”
Now, at his place of employment, Brian is surrounded by people who know, love and include him.
“My job is at Delaware State University,” explained Brian. “I work at the Village Café and serve food, pick up trash and stack the cups.” Ask him to describe himself at work, at home or in the pool, he’ll say, “I’m a happy guy!”
When Christine got the call that her son was selected to represent Special Olympics USA in the Special Olympics World Games, she was in tears, standing in a grocery store’s parking lot.
“We were so moved that they would think of our son in that way,” said Christine. “He’s a great ambassador for the United States, he has a lot of empathy for other people. He’s a team player and he’s just happy to be with people.”
This June, his happiness will transcend borders, radiating happiness as he competes in the Special Olympics World Games.