Unbound stories

Racing to success

January 13, 2014

Juan Jose
Sponsored youth Juan trains in Guatemala.

Juan is not your typical 16-year-old Guatemalan teen. An athlete since age 6, Juan has competed on national and international levels and even represented his country in China. He's earned bronze, silver and gold medals in his decade as a runner.

He also has Down syndrome.

Juan is the youngest of five children and was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. With a large family, medical bills and an unstable income, Juan's parents found it difficult to make ends meet.

For Juan, Unbound came at the right time. He joined the program when he was only 3 years old.

"He needs special care and education and all of that costs money," said Concepcion, Juan's mother. "Thanks to Unbound and the monthly benefits we receive, we've been able to save and pay for some of Juan's special care."

When he was 6, Juan's teacher spoke to his parents about sports as a good way to develop psychomotor skills.

"He started training and was having fun," Concepcion said. "He liked the exercise, and his teacher said he was very good."

Ready, set, go!

By age 9, Juan enrolled in a national Special Olympics meet. He competed with athletes from all over Guatemala in running and won a gold medal that was his ticket to the 2007 World Special Olympics in China.

Juan was thrilled. His mother said he trained for two hours every morning for a year before the competition. His dream was to bring home a medal.

Juan and his parents
Juan shows off his medals with his proud parents, Jose and

And he did. Juan won a gold medal in the 50-meter dash and a silver medal in the 25-meter dash.

But he didn't stop there.

Juan continued running in other local and national competitions. He even competed in the 2008 Central American and Caribbean meet, winning silver and bronze medals. He's won 27 medals in all for running.

"I was proud to represent Guatemala in the Olympics," he said. "I am proud of my medals and my mom and dad."

Juan has come far. What he has accomplished has the potential to change how people with special needs are viewed.

"People tend to discriminate [against] people with disabilities," Concepcion said. "We have to overcome these types of attitudes."

By joining the sponsorship program at a young age, Juan and his parents have had access to specialty care and education critical to his development. His parents receive the tools and support they need to stand with him in the face of adversity.

Did you know?

More than 6,000 children, youth and elderly people with special needs are sponsored through Unbound. Still, 468 remain waiting for a sponsor.

To sponsor someone with special needs, look for the heart icon in their profile on our website or call Sponsor Services at (800) 875-6564.

Sponsor today!

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