During the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, Milford resident Daniel Yonker brought home three Olympic medals in the sport of bowling. Winning two silvers in four-man team and doubles events, Yonker captured the gold in singles. The World Games, held every two years alternating summer and winter, included 6,500 athletes from 165 countries.
“It’s good, I bowled good and met people and new friends from around the world,” said Yonker.
At forty years old, Daniel is no stranger to sports as he has been involved with Special Olympics Delaware for thirty-two years. Competing in the sports of downhill skiing, golf, volleyball and bowling, Daniel has performed in multiple Special Olympics national events and placed in the World Games in Ireland. His parents Bill and Faye encouraged their son to be a part of Special Olympics of Delaware (SODE) as they thought that Daniel was a good ambassador for others with disabilities.
“He has such a great personality,” said Faye. “He is a good example of how talented and special these athletes really are. [The athletes] exemplify friendliness, happiness and consideration to each other and I wish others would display these qualities to each other.”
When Daniel was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at a young age, his family and biggest fans Bill and Faye admit that they did not know where to turn for assistance with their son’s syndrome. During the 1970’s there was not much information among the medical community to educate families and the Special Olympics of Delaware offered the family a resource for local, state and federal news and information on individuals with disabilities. Mr. and Mrs. Yonker have since been volunteers with the organization for over three decades.
“For Danny, the experience has broadened his spectrum of play, his community and the workforce and has allowed him to put out his talents and personality,” said Faye. “For the public, Special Olympics of Delaware brings out the interaction between athletes and unified partners and allows them to see how they are more alike than different. The interaction of the public with individuals with disabilities has changed over time and Special olympics is a huge part of that.”
Through Special Olympics Daniel has discovered independence and confidence through others that share similar disabilities. Daniel plans to continue competing on the state, national and world stage. He is currently practicing golf and will be moving into volleyball as the fall months set in. A man of all seasons, Yonker will move into downhill skiing during winter and tennis this spring. In addition to his love of sports, Daniel also works at Staples in Dover, DE, a company he has been with for over 10 years.
Special Olympics Delaware began in 1971 with the mission to provide sports training and competition to athletes with intellectual disabilities. Since the program began, they have helped more than 3,700 young men and women achieve their athletic goals, proving that no disability is too great to overcome. Individuals and families that are interested in finding out more information about Special Olympics of Delaware, are encouraged to visit http://www.sode.org.