Featured Competitor: Hooper, Golfer, Bowler Mark Eberhardt
For Mark Eberhardt, competing in the Special Olympics isn't just a fun way to fill downtime, it's a way of life. He spends the winter months fine-tuning his jumpshot, the spring and summer perfecting his golf swing, and the fall, chasing turkeys around the bowling alley.
It's been Mark's annual routine for years: practice, compete, rinse and repeat.
In 2015, he participated in the Rip City 3-on-3 tournament, Portland's premier amateur hoops event, for the eighth time, taking home a silver medal. "We had a pretty good team, but we came up short," said Mark. "Hopefully (we'll win) this year."
Ascending to the podium was a definite highlight in Mark's competitive experience, but that experience goes far beyond just medals and trophies.
"Mark has grown a lot since he began participating in Special Olympics," said his mom Leona Eberhardt. "He more readily accepts the losses with the wins. In the beginning, he would pout, but now he's better about it. He talks about teamwork. He shares the ball."
Mark's Special Olympics journey, which began with a medal-winning performance in track and field in his first summer games, hasn't been one he's made alone. "Mark has a lifelong friend who started track and field with him many years ago, they both still participate," said Leona.
She points out the importance of family support as well. "I make certain Mark gets to his practice and tournaments on time, almost all of which I'm able to stay and watch," she said. "His family supports him 100 percent; he knows that."
This year's Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament is expecting roughly 2,000 players on almost 500 different teams, with competitive divisions spanning youth (boys and girls), high school (boys and girls), adult (men, women and co-ed teams), elite (men and women), the Special Olympics division and the Unified Sports division. It will be held in Portland's Rose Quarter on July 30 and 31.
Anyone interested in volunteering or registering an athlete should visit the official tournament website. You can also "like" the Facebook event page, or follow @RipCity3on3 on Twitter and Instagram for more information.
"When I watch Mark play, I look to see if he's playing as a team member," said Leona. "Special Olympics teaches the athletes to be proud of who they are, to believe in themselves and to be fearless in trying their best together."
Les Schwab Tire Centers is proud to sponsor the Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament and athletes like Mark again this year.
Hard Work and Teamwork, on the Field and Off
Felix Songolo, sophomore captain of the varsity boys' soccer team at De La Salle North Catholic High School (shown here sporting his Knights jersey), has been playing soccer since he was five. The game runs in his family: His father, mother, older brother, younger twin brothers, and even his youngest brother, now five years old himself, all play. Felix says his first memory from childhood is of watching his older brother play soccer when their family still lived in Africa.
Felix and his family moved to the U.S. in 2005, fleeing conflict in their home country of Zambia. Throughout his time in a refugee camp and afterward in adjusting to life in America, Felix found a sense of community in playing soccer. Now, after overcoming difficult times, he refuses to let anything stand in his way. Even with a busy practice schedule, he plans to maintain his 4.0 GPA, graduate as the class valedictorian and go on to play college soccer.
"My parents sacrificed to move to America, and because of that, I don't take the opportunity to get an education and play soccer for granted," said Felix. "If my desire for success is greater than my fear of failure, then I will succeed."
Felix credits soccer with helping him deal with challenges because it's a team sport.
"I started school in the first grade, and it was tough because I did not have many friends other than my family," Felix said. "Playing soccer during recess gave me a voice with the other kids and helped me create friendships and a deeper love for the game."
As an intern at Oregon Health & Science University through the Corporate Work Study Program, Felix also gains experience, friendships and preparation for his dream of becoming a neurologist. He credits his parents as the force that helps him perform to the best of his abilities, as he says, "continuing to push me through thick and thin, placing their lives on hold for me and my siblings."
We admire Felix for his hard work and teamwork, two values we can get behind.
Community Joins Forces to Help Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue
Les Schwab Tire Centers is honored to be a part of the Portland community's response that transformed a senseless crime into a moment of gratitude.
During a winter snowstorm, members of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's Station 66, in Beaverton, went out to help a woman who had given birth in her home. When they returned to the station, someone had slashed the tires of five personal vehicles in the parking lot.
To help the firefighters raise money for the repairs, two community members set up GoFundMe pages. When Les Schwab learned from its media partner, 99.5 FM The Wolf, the first responders were the victims of vandalism, there was no doubt that the company wanted to jump in and support the effort!
Les Schwab believes in supporting organizations and activities that help those in need. Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue does that every day.
"This contribution is a small token of our appreciation for all they do," said Joe Rector, Les Schwab Portland area manager. "Our first responders are there for us when we need them most, and we were happy to be able to return the favor!"
Between the money raised through the GoFundMe pages and the support from Portland-area Les Schwab stores, all tires have been replaced and tow fees have been covered to make this situation right.
"We have been overwhelmed and humbled by all of the support we have gotten from the community," Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Cassandra Ulven told The Oregonian.
RESPECT Program Pays Surprise Visit to Wilson High
In 2013, rookie guard Damian Lillard, along with the Portland Trail Blazers and Les Schwab Tire Centers, tipped off a regional anti-bullying campaign that encourages everyone to stand up for the rights of others and to show respect for all people.
The RESPECT campaign began with a series of 30-second television and radio public service announcements featuring Lillard. The first showed more than 20 local youth from the Portland mentoring nonprofit Friends of the Children reciting the respect pledge and encouraging everyone to join by signing the "Respect, Pass it On" manifesto.
The PSAs directed viewers to the website nba.com/blazers/respect, where they could take the pledge digitally by using their Facebook account, or by printing and signing a paper copy of it. The campaign succeeded right out of the gate: It registered 1,800 pledges in the first 24 hours, and to date over 6,500 people from Portland, Oregon, and surrounding areas have committed to the pledge.
Lillard has been a Special Olympics Ambassador since he was 17. And he helped coach the Special Olympics Unified Sports Game during the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, Texas. In an interview with the Deseret News in 2014, he discussed how close to his heart the campaign is.
"I've seen too many of the negative effects that bullying has on people, especially kids," Lillard said. "Now that I've learned how many people look up to us as NBA players, I want to make the most of it by getting behind positive initiatives like anti-bullying."
In the second year of the pledge, students submitted stories of how they were showing respect, and the Trail Blazers selected three of them to feature in the next PSA.
Every year, Damian visits a Portland area high school to discuss why respect is important and reward schools and organizations that are leading the respect movement. This year, the RESPECT program surprised Wilson High School Special Olympics Unified Sports participants and Playworks Junior Coaches with a visit from the BlazerDancers and Stunt Team as well as tickets to an upcoming game.
Les Schwab is pleased to partner with Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers to raise awareness about bullying in schools. Showing respect to everyone is important to creating thriving communities. Our employees have taken the RESPECT pledge, and we encourage others to join the campaign.
Rip City 3-on-3 Breaks Down Competitive Barriers
Research has shown that attitudes toward those different than us quickly break down through interaction; we better understand and empathize with others perceived as different than us by identifying shared passions.
It is with this research in mind that the 2016 Rip City 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, Portland's premier amateur hoops event, will feature a Unified Sports Division for the first time. The Unified Sports Division is just one of six competitive divisions, but it's the only one that integrates athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the same teams. The tournament will be held at Portland's Rose Quarter Campus on July 30 and 31.
"This is a chance for our participants to show what they are capable of," said Torre Chisholm, Chief Development Officer of Special Olympics Oregon. "It allows non-disabled players to develop an understanding of people with disabilities; it's amazing for building commonality."
The tournament also features a Special Olympics Division, as well as others devoted to youth (boys and girls), high school (boys and girls), adult (men, women and mixed teams) and elite (men and women).
This year marks the third year that Special Olympics Oregon has partnered with the Portland Trail Blazers and Les Schwab Tire Centers to put on the Rip City 3-on-3, which has raised more than $50,000 for the Special Olympics.
The funding helps support Special Olympics Oregon, which puts on 30 regional competitions across 15 sports throughout the yearthat's in addition to organizing practices across the state nearly every day.
Last year's tournament featured 16 Special Olympics teams, but Chisholm is hopeful that the new Unified Sports Division will bring even more intellectually disabled athletes into the fold. "While we have 13,000 who currently participate in Special Olympics Oregon, there are as many as 100,000 statewide with intellectual disabilities."
In addition to the scheduled games, the tournament will also feature plenty to keep noncompetitors entertained, including a slam dunk contest, an interactive games area and various vendor booths.
Les Schwab Tire Centers has been a proud partner of the Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament since 2014 and is proud to be the presenting partner this year. For more information on the tournament or to register as a competitor, please visit the official Rip City 3-on-3 website.
Rip City 3-on-3 Features New Format, Same Community Spirit and Fun
Les Schwab Tire Centers is once again sponsoring Portland's premier amateur hoops event, the Rip City 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament. The tournament, which benefits Special Olympics Oregon, will be held in the city's Rose Quarter on July 30 and 31.
After a two-year hiatus, the popular event returned in 2014 with a roster that included roughly 1,300 participants on 325 teams. Building on that success, last year's tournament grew to roughly 1,500 players on 389 teams, all with their eyes fixed on taking home a Division title.
For players, competitive divisions include youth (both boys and girls), high school (both boys and girls), adult (men, women and mixed teams), elite (men and women), the Special Olympics division and the Unified Sports division. All ages play on a standard 10-foot hoop.
This year, a brand-new format will begin with pool play on Saturday morning and culminate in single-elimination playoffs on Sunday. Pool play results will dictate playoff seeding, and every team is guaranteed a minimum of three games over the two days.
Thanks to the more than 300 volunteers who give 4,000 hours of their time each year, the event has managed to raise more than $50,000 for Special Olympics Oregon to date.
If you're interested in getting involved, either as a player or volunteer, please visit the official tournament website to register. You can also "like" the Facebook event page, or follow @RipCity3on3 on Twitter and Instagram for more information. All volunteers will receive a Rip City 3-on-3 volunteer T-shirt.
Les Schwab has been a proud partner of the Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament since 2014 and are proud to be the presenting partner this year.
Setting Herself and Her Team up for Success
Rachel Thompson is a senior scholar-athlete and setter for the varsity volleyball team at Benson Polytechnic High School. As a setter, she has to take control and lead the team; the position is usually compared to that of a quarterback in football, requiring a person to communicate well and make decisions.
But Rachel isn't just a team leader, she's also a team player:
"Honestly, the best part of my day is coming to practice and playing with my girls," Rachel said. "I love every single individual on my team. At this point we're a family, and nothing could break that bond. Being able to see all of my sisters for those 2.5 hours of the day genuinely makes me happy and keeps me going. This team in is my blood. They may not know it, but they mean the world to me."
The team's grade point average is high, because nothing but the best is expected of them on and off of the court. Rachel says that playing on the volleyball team pushes her to rise above and makes her want to be the best player and person she can be.
In addition to prepping her homework and classwork ahead of time, so she can devote more of her attention to her sport when she competes, Rachel has one surprising strategy for getting her game on.
"When it comes to right before the game, I usually listen to music. My teammates don't even know this, but my No. 1 pre-game song to listen to is the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1. It's so weird to listen to classical music to pump up, I know! But it helps calm me and keeps me focused on the game ahead."
We can relate to a team that sets high standards for itself. Go, Techsters!
Les Schwab Tire Centers is a proud sponsor of the Oregon School Activities Association.
Teammates Provide Competition and Camaraderie
People unfamiliar with cross-country may think it is strictly an individual sport, but a lot depends on teamwork. Though runners often race individually, the team scores points collectively, so it is important that everyone is running strong.
As a senior, Samantha Nizich ran cross-country at Central Catholic High School (Portland, Oregon) this year, and she is happy to encourage other potential runners, just as her role models encouraged her.
Motivation to Push Through
"It is not only at races that cross-country is a team sport but at practice too. It is sometimes hard to find motivation to get through workouts, but having teammates to push you makes it manageable and fun!"
Samantha credits Julia Green, her former "runner bud" and current Santa Clara University cross-country team member, with showing her how to be a successful team leader and determined runner, as well as a dedicated student.
"I have been lucky enough to have the best role model show me the way for my first three years of high school. Julia was always the one inviting me to join her on long runs or yelling at me to stick with her during a hard workout. Her drive has made me want to achieve more and be the best I can possibly be."
This camaraderie extends to the larger team too. Her teammates are her favorite people and best friends, and there is no separation based on age or even skill.
Challenge Yourself and Your Team
After her experience at CCHS, she has some clear advice for beginners.
"Put on those Nikes and get goin'! My advice for new runners is to not be afraid to challenge yourself and others on the team by running up with them. Holding back not only hurts you and your times, but it does not force the experienced runners to fight for their spot. Also, try different race strategies. Get out faster one race and start conservative the next; this is the only way to figure out what works best for you."
Although sports take up time, Samantha says she wouldn't trade running for sleep, because she feels more focused after a good workout and even has time to think of essay topics for schoolwork while running! Aiming high pays off in more ways than one.
Les Schwab Tire Centers is a proud sponsor of the Oregon School Activities Association.