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Sullivan resident achieves silver medal in Special Olympics

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Photo by JESSICA PITTS
 
Paul Koby poses with the silver medal he won during the Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games in bowling, which ran from June 9-11 in Terre Haute.
 
Sullivan resident achieves silver medal in Special Olympics
 
By JESSICA PITTS
new3.sdt@gmail.com
 
Paul Koby was just one of the Sullivan County residents competing with nearly 2,700 other athletes in the Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games that took place a week ago.
A weekend full of bowling brought Koby second place and a silver medal in his division, which made him feel “happy.”
This wasn’t the first year that he has participated in the competition that ran from June 9-11 in Terre Haute.  
For Koby, the competitions began nearly 15 years ago, where he participated at the Happiness Bag — a United Way agency in Terre Haute that provides recreational and educational opportunities for disabled individuals — and he then got involved in Special Olympics. Since then, the athlete has participated in both bowling and track, and won several hundred medals for the education organization.
He has achieved those medals with the support of Sullivan Bowling Lanes, where he and his friends practice weekly for the summer and winter games and regional competition.
“I am very proud of him and all the other athletes,” Koby’s sister Jill Hagmeier said.  
From participating in the games to listening to ’80s music and going to dances at the Happiness Bag, Koby enjoys his life and the possibilities available to him after being diagnosed as autistic at an early age.
Living with autism in the late 1960s in a rural community, Hagemeier noted that Koby couldn’t talk until he was 5 years old, and his first word was “tractor.”
“There were very few services at that time and I am pretty sure he was the only autistic child who had been identified as such in Knox County,” she said.
When Koby began preschool in Evansville, she and her mother took turns driving Koby every day.
“Eventually, mom and dad helped get a preschool started in Vincennes for special needs children,” Hagemeier added.
Koby later graduated from North Knox High School with a certificate.
“All these things were made possible by the perseverance of our parents and Paul’s own internal strength,” Hagemeier added. “Our parents had been told when Paul was two that they should put him in an institution and that he would never talk or be able to do anything.”
Despite those odds, Koby has been assisted by a job coach, worked for Goodwill Industries SCARC and volunteered at several sites.
“Paul (and I) just want Paul to be treated like everyone else,” Hagemeier said. “Special needs persons just want to have friends and be loved and appreciated like everyone else.”


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