Local

12-year-old NC Special Olympian always 'striving for gold.' Program celebrating 50th year.

Brogan DeBuhr, 12, of Johnston County warms up before the gymnastics competition at the 2018 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games held June 2, 2018, at Sonshine Gymnastics in Holly Springs, N.C.
Brogan DeBuhr, 12, of Johnston County warms up before the gymnastics competition at the 2018 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games held June 2, 2018, at Sonshine Gymnastics in Holly Springs, N.C. khui@newsobserver.com

Brogan DeBuhr is only 12, but the Johnston County athlete is already competitive in four sports.

Brogan was a medal-winning Special Olympian in equestrian, tennis and downhill skiing when she decided a year ago to give gymnastics a try.

On Saturday, Brogan jumped, twirled and balanced herself all around the floor at Sonshine Gymnastics in Holly Springs at the 2018 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games.

"I used to have three sports," Brogan said Saturday before the competition. "I thought why not have more sports."

Brogan is among nearly 1,900 athletes taking part in this weekend's competition, which will run through Sunday at venues across Wake County. Competition is taking place in athletics, bowling, cheerleading, cycling, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, swimming and volleyball.

Members of Team North Carolina will travel to Seattle in July for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.

This year's games mark 50 years for the Special Olympics movement, which has helped transform the lives of people who have intellectual disabilities. Statewide, nearly 40,000 athletes take part in Special Olympics North Carolina events.

Brogan's parents can attest to how Special Olympics has had a profound impact on her life. It's provided new opportunities for Brogan, whose numerous health issues and life-threatening Celiac’s disease require that the Cleveland resident to be home-schooled.

"This is kind of her community," said Dana DeBuhr, Brogan's mother. "This is where she's making friends. She can relax and just be Brogan and have a wonderful time."

Brogan has been competing in Special Olympics since 2015, when she won two silver medals for her horse-riding skills in her first-ever tournament. Her mother estimates that Brogan has won more than 25 Special Olympics medals over the last three years.

Brogan says she keeps "striving for gold" at every event. On Saturday, she picked up a gold, along with three other medals and a ribbon.

"She's been busy," Dana DeBuhr said. "We just keep up."

Brogan was named Special Olympics North Carolina's 2015 December Athlete of the Month. She was also recently named Johnston County Athlete Of the Year by the county's Special Olympics program.

Brogan has become part of Special Olympics' Global Messenger program, where she explains what the program means to her and why the program needs more help from the community.

"I get to move right around a lot, and I get to meet new friends," Brogan said.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
  Comments