On the way home from the Special Olympics Games,Bryan Gentry kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes.
He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory.View Story ▼Special Olympics changed Bryan Gentry's life!
In 1999 Bryan’s daughter, Brooke, was a senior in high school working as a peer tutor in a special education class at Bradley Central High School, Cleveland, Tennessee. Brooke was planning her future and helping special needs students was her passion. She also loved working with the Special Olympics.
One day Brooke received a brochure regarding the International Special Olympics Games being held at Raleigh, North Carolina, close to Bryan’s hometown.
The family decided to take our family vacation and be volunteers at Special Olympics Games. Brooke played tennis so the family signed up to work the tennis venue in North Carolina. When they arrived at the tennis courts, Brooke was assigned to work with the players and assigned Bryan and Betsy to help with parking.
After about 15 minutes working in the parking lot, Bryan said, ‘I do not want to be with cars. I want to be with people.’ So he ran and jumped on the tennis court with Brooke and started helping her. On the way home he kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes! People had asked him is this your job? Bryan said, ‘No. I’m in the business world.”
He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory, Bryan found himself drawn to a lifestyle of sacrifice unlike anything he ever experienced in all his years as a businessman. When the family returned home, Bryan made a life changing decision. He quit the business world and began working with special needs students. First as a social worker, then principal of a private school for adults with disabilities and after retirement he founded, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, a recreational activity for adults with disabilities.
Bryan wanted to provide his extended family with a social outlet on Friday nights, which was as much about showing love as it was about filling a need.
About Betsy Gentry:Betsy Gentry supervises special education student teachers at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. She is a retired Work-based Learning Coordinator for Ooltewah High School in Ooltewah, Tennessee and a past Transition Coordinator for the Bradley County Schools in Cleveland, TN, and a Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager. She has worked with the Project Discovery curriculum both in implementing it with students with special needs at the local level and in training schools and districts nationwide on its use for nearly ten years. As a past Tennessee Council for Exceptional Children Special Educator of the Year, Mrs. Gentry is an expert on transition issues and a frequent state and national speaker. View less ▲