For Michael Heup, nothing is impossible.
Heup, a Davidsonville man with intellectual disabilities, is already a world class athlete, making headlines and raising awareness for people with disabilities.
Now, he has been selected to run in Austria for the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run on March 14-17, 2017. This Torch Run is considered to be one of the most prestigious and significant opportunities available during the Winter World Games, a global gathering of both Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement.
“My reaction… shocked but I'm totally ready for it," Heup said when asked how he received the news.
The Special Olympics program is a year round organization that provides sports activity as well as leadership training and health initiatives to those with intellectual disabilities.
The Torch Run will be no jog in the park. This opening event includes 10 Special Olympic athletes and 88 law enforcement officers who will transport the Flame of Hope together through Austria for nine days.
The trip is over 2,000 miles and the team will stop at three to four locations each day, spreading awareness to each community of the Special Olympics. The purpose is to deliver a message of inclusion to places that are still struggling to accept community members with intellectual disabilities.
Heup is passionate about spreading awareness of the Special Olympics, because his life has been so positively impacted by participation in the program.
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“What it has done for me is given me a chance to go out and do events like soccer, basketball, hockey, cycling…. I [also] made a lot of friends when I [joined] Special Olympics,” he said.
But Heup feels that he can achieve even more.
His goal is to be the largest fundraiser in the Winter Games. Not just out of his team, area or country, but out of all 3,000 participants.That will require him to raise more than $10,000.
A 15-year participant in the Special Olympics Maryland program, Heup takes part in more than 10 sports,with track and field being his favorite. He has previously represented Special Olympics Maryland at national and international conferences from New Orleans to the Bahamas.
The Torch Run is usually the largest fundraiser for the Special Olympics. The law enforcement community is a large part of the process, as they have raised over half a billion dollars to date for the Special Olympics.
Heup has had a special relationship with local law enforcement in Annapolis, and said he hopes to continue to involve law enforcement in reaching his fundraising goal.
Heup has had a life changing impact on the people of Special Olympics Maryland, said Jason Schriml, vice president of communications.
“[Michael] is able to engage well with others, whether it be volunteers, parents, other athletes, in a way that I have seen with very few others. He is open honest and gregarious, you can feel the passion [that] he has for the Special Olympics and he is able to share that with others," Schriml said.
Here's how to donate to Heup's cause:
GoFundMe page set up by local law enforcement