Commitment to welcome and include children with special needs garners honor
by Mike Gastineau | Special to Presbyterian News Service
SEATTLE — The Rev. Peg Roy of First Presbyterian Church in Auburndale, Florida, is being recognized by the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle as a Game Changer in her community, as part of the organization’s #iamagamechanger campaign.
The campaign celebrates the unsung heroes in America who are creating communities that meaningfully and fully welcome people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Roy was nominated by Susan Carleton, a church member raising two children with autism.
Since joining the church a year and a half ago, Carleton’s children have become active members in the church community, occasionally volunteering in the weekly food pantry, and always enjoying second Saturdays at The Hangout, a church program created by elder Kathy Nall that provides a fun, inclusive space for young people with special needs while their caregivers have a break. Pastor Roy has continually reached out with a warm welcome and ongoing support and recently invited the kids to light the first Advent candle as part of Sunday service.
Both children, Fergus, 17, and Aedammair, 11, compete with Polk County’s Special Olympics teams in track and bowling, and Fergus is currently training on the county’s inaugural equestrian team.
“The welcome we’ve received at First Presbyterian has transformed my kids,” Carleton said in her interview with Seattle Games organizers. “They’re more confident than before, more outgoing, and so happy to find a community where they can contribute and truly belong. So when I heard about the #iamagamechanger campaign, I sent in my nomination pretty quickly.”
Roy is a native of Chicago who moved to Florida in 1998. After receiving her Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, Roy was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2014 and has served as pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Auburndale, Florida, since that time. Her feature story appeared on the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games website on Dec. 12 and can be found at www.specialolympicsusagames.org/gc-peggy-roy.
The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be held in Seattle in July. More than 4,000 athletes and coaches representing 50 states will compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports, watched by tens of thousands of spectators and supporters.
Mike Gastineau is a Special Olympics USA Games correspondent.
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