News & Stories

The Bright Side

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Competing in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, Special Olympics Northern California athlete Jessy Lane and Unified partner Lia Feriancek were placed in an all-male division for Alternate Shot Team Play Competition (9-hole). In one of the best rounds they ever played as Unified partners, the duo proved that they could succeed, even on unchartered courses.

“At the awards ceremony, she saw all the medals,” said Lia. “She looked at the gold one and saw her fifth-place ribbon and said, ‘I like mine better, I mean I can wear mine on my jacket.’ She has the best attitude, is just always seeing the positive in everything. It makes it a joy to golf with her.”

Since the start of her Special Olympics career in 2004, Jessy has made the best of every putt, of every round. Now representing Special Olympics USA in golf at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, with Lia as her caddie, Jessy is focused on advancing herself in the sport, consulting her coaches and online resources for direction. Her most unconventional, yet effective, form of practice can be found regularly in the palm of her hand.

In 2004, Nintendo released “Mario Golf: Advance Tour,” the fourth installment of the “Mario Golf” series. Allowing players to build custom characters, network at the clubhouse and practice against the professionals, Jessy had found her niche.

“I was like, I want to be just like Mario,” explained Jessy. “That’s what started this whole thing.”

Her sights were once set on wearing a Special Olympics USA polo in a Special Olympics World Games, Jessy will do just that in a matter of months.

“Oh my goodness,” said Jessy. “I’m at a loss for words, it’s amazing, really. I’ve been reaching for this since I started Special Olympics.”

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Lia (left) and Jessy (right) at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando

Jessy and Lia function as a team, practicing to better understand the rules of the sport and course etiquette. Lia, who lived in Berlin, Germany, for three years working at the global headquarters for a kitesurfing company, is sharing her knowledge of the German language with Jessy. For Lia, her return to Berlin for the Special Olympics World Games is a proud one for her entire family. Her uncle, who had Down syndrome, competed in the 1983 Special Olympics World Games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Four decades later, Lia joins the family ranks of Special Olympics USA delegation members.

As her caddie, Lia is inspired by Jessy’s optimism, an attitude she carries on and off the golf course. Being involved with Special Olympics has provided Jessy with an avenue to stay physically fit and practice her social skills. In addition to training with Special Olympics, Jessy attends workout classes at Orangetheory Fitness and has lost 100 pounds in doing so.

“I’m very blessed to have so many people supporting me,” said Jessy. “They’re my friends, they’re my family, so is Lia.”

A reflection of her bright outlook on life, Jessy is drawn to bright colors, especially when they’re found in a floral bouquet. For the past 16 years, Jessy has worked at Little Red Hen’s Floral Store, employed as a senior staff assistant and lead floral designer. After graduating from high school, she earned her certificate in floral design at Butte College in 2007. To promote her skills, she volunteers to work at bridal, home and garden shows.

With an innate ability to find positivity and beauty in everything, Jessy never lets the last putt define her next, a brighter future always ahead.