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NKY’s Hunter Eudy graduates from Kentucky Special Olympics leadership program — and finds his voice

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

Hunter Eudy has participated in Kentucky Special Olympics since he was 13, swimming with the NKY Dolphins.

Hunter speaking at the leadership class graduation.

His mom, Jera, credits the Special Olympics with bringing Hunter, who has autism, out of his shell – and giving him the opportunity to grow and learn.

It was his swim coach, Debbie Ogden, who suggested that Hunter join the Special Olympics Leadership program where he would meet with fellow Special Olympic athletes in Frankfort for 4-5 hour classes throughout the year. In the program, the athletes learned about public speaking and what it took to be an ambassador for Kentucky Special Olympics, among other things.

And the amazing thing is that at graduation, Hunter – much to his mom’s surprise – actually gave a speech. It was a speech he wrote himself, with a bit of coaching.

“Hunter is a loving, charismatic young man,” says Jera. “He brings such light and joy to anyone he is around. Ask him how his day was and he usually answers ‘Great!’

“But he isn’t social and doesn’t start conversations, so the speech was a pretty big thing.”

The pride Hunter had in this accomplish is almost matched by his parents’ pride in seeing him at the microphone.

“His confidence says a lot about what he has gotten from his coach and those in Kentucky Special Olympics who do such incredible work,” Jera says.

Jera and Billy Hunter moved to Northern Kentucky, eventually settling in Independence, when Hunter was just a baby. His older sister, Samantha, had already turned one. It wasn’t long before mom started to perceive that something wasn’t quite right with Hunter, so she got medical attention and, when he was two, he started speech therapy.

At New Perceptions, he started intensive therapy and was diagnosed as having a developmental disorder and eventually his parents were told he was “on the spectrum.” Mom started thinking, “What will he need that will help him later?”

He started school in “an amazing program” at River Ridge which was a long commute for Jera. Later he was “mainstreamed” at Summit View in Kenton County, an experience that Jera said was also very positive. Valerie Gore, a caring teacher there, advised Hunter on job opportunities.

“We have been blessed to have been able to find the right places at the right time,” she said.

Getting Hunter involved in Special Olympics was another blessing. He was chosen to be on Team KY in 2018 where he competed in Seattle and brought home two bronze medals and a 5th place ribbon.

Today, at 25, he has worked at Amazon for nearly four years. He works a four-hour shift each day, loading boxes into trucks, and he loves making his own money and having a responsibility for a specific task.

And for this moment in time with the Special Olympics leadership class graduation, he enjoyed, for once, being the center of attention as he gave a speech in front of a lot of people.

His parents loved it even more.

Hunter’s graduating class

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