And the Snow Flies 14

Andy Martinez shines at the Special Olympics

Andy Martinez is fast. Very fast. He’s fast on dry land and he’s fast in the snow and he has the medals to prove it. Although you may not have seen him at Sochi, he is still an olympian–a Special Olympian.

Andy, who is autistic, is 32 years old and competes year round in a number of sports, from soccer to basketball to swimming to his favorite sport, snowshoe racing. He recently competed at the 2017 Special Olympic World Games in Austria, taking bronze in snowshoe racing. Andy has spent 20 years competing in Special Olympics and his parents consider the organization a vital part of their son’s continued success.

Andy found snowshoe racing after discovering that he did not enjoy falling down while skiing. Snowshoeing requires a long gait and determination, both of which Andy possess.

“When you’re in Special Olympics, no one can help you if you fall down; you must continue on your own. In his first race, he was in the lead but he fell down because his snowshoe came off and he had to put the snowshoe back on, regained the lead, made the turn, fell and picked himself up and regained the lead to win the race,” his mother Kathy says. Determination is something that Andy has in spades.

Andy’s parents, Kathy and Mike Martinez are coaches for Special Olympics so the training schedule is intense and ongoing but provides a sense of stability and routine for a man that is constantly on the hunt for the next medal. He regularly competes in the 200m, 400m, and the 4X400m relay.

Mike spent 28 years in the U.S. Army, moving his family 15 times over the course of his career, landing in Kansas City ten years ago. The family chose Kansas City because of the exceptional services that Platte County offers to people with intellectual disabilities. They help people like Andy find work, find community, and find care when they need it.

When Andy isn’t training (that is, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) he works at Vocational Services, Inc. He spends his days lifting, organizing, and arranging materials on pallets in a warehouse setting, playing a sort of large scale Tetris for a variety of products.

Andy Martinez was six months old when his mother, Kathy, noticed that he was different.

“It was just little things. He didn’t hit milestones on time. He was just delayed,” she says.

It took many more years to get an official diagnosis of autism but Kathy did whatever she could to make sure that her son had activities that allowed him to shine. Running is just one of them.

When Andy is not training, he’s an avid baseball fan. He’s a regular at The K and has become a favorite of the charity organizers for the Royals. Andy caddies for the Royals’ charity golf tournament. He’s such a favorite that the Royals invited him to come to Game Six of the 2014 World Series. He enjoyed the game from behind home plate in David Glass’s personal seats.

Andy also cares about giving back to the community. One of his favorite ways to do that is through the Ronald McDonald House pop tab program. Andy collects pop tabs to donate and has a vast network of friends and family that contribute to his collection. Most recently, he donated two containers of 75 lbs and 50 lbs of pop tabs–that’s more than some schools contribute as a whole.

Andy has never let his position on the autism spectrum slow him down or define him. Instead, he’s used the tools that Special Olympics, places like VSI, and his devoted parents have given him and become the best version of himself that he can be. He has friends, a girlfriend and a love of Broadway musicals, as well as a rigorous but enjoyable training schedule. With this support, he’s able to be himself–charming, shy but not stand-offish and excited about each new challenge that lies ahead.