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Abby Thomas wearing Special Olympics shirt
January 29, 2020

Combining a love of sports with disability advocacy

An interest in public health and disability advocacy inspired Abby Thomas ’14 to chart a path through an individually designed major (public health with a concentration in disability studies) that led to career success with Special Olympics International in Washington, D.C.

While enrolled in a community health course at Berry, Abby and her classmates visited the Braves Miracle Field at Rome. The field trip visit had a lasting impact on Abby’s academic and professional trajectory. “The Miracle Field serves as an inclusive baseball field for people of all abilities.” Abby says. “The surface is a rubberized turf with bases painted on, making it wheelchair accessible. I was mesmerized by this experience and instantly knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Abby immediately signed up to volunteer with the Miracle Field, which later turned into an internship with the Rome Braves during her senior year. “As someone who played sports all my life, I had never fathomed what it would look like to play those sports in an adapted way,” she says. “The marriage of sports with disabilities is a powerful unification showing the joy in sport and the power of breaking down barriers.”

After graduation, Abby continued her work in sport adaptation thanks to a volunteer opportunity with the Pujols Family Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., which has a mission similar to that of the Miracle Field and focuses on individuals with Down syndrome. But Abby didn’t stop there. She set her sights on the global level and nailed her dream job with the Special Olympics a year after graduating from Berry.

Abby’s position as an assistant in corporate partnerships was the ideal fit personally and professionally. “She has a servant’s heart, and she loves people so well,” says Abby’s mentor and friend, Berry Assistant Director of Athletics for Sports Medicine & Athletics Ginger Swann. “She is a light who brings a freshness and joy to those she connects with. She is intentional and gifted in building relationships and helping others. She is mission driven, and the work she does is deeply a part of who she is.”

Now a manager in business development, Abby remains enthusiastic about her role with Special Olympics International. “Breaking down barriers through sport is what Special Olympics is all about, so I was thrilled to begin my career there!” Abby says. “I work in Development doing corporate fundraising on the Global Strategic Partnerships team. I love my job and my team and getting to introduce prospects to our mission and dream up ways we can work together to benefit Special Olympics and our 6 million athletes around the world.”

Having benefited from a great mentor, Abby encourages students to make the most of Berry: “Don’t be afraid to try new things, personally or academically. Get to know the faculty and staff—they are amazing and there for you! Explore that beautiful campus as much as you can.”

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