The Catholic Herald
Sep 29, 2010
Leo Alonso, known as “Coach Leo,” has led his teams to victory many times in the 28 years he’s been involved in Special Olympics in Northern Virginia. Many gold and silver medals have been won at state championships, but the realprize is the positive impact on lives: increased self-esteem,self-confidence and personal growth. Alonso’s giving heart and lifetime of service has led to a fan club that loves him as much as he does them. Alonso has impacted the lives of thousands of children and adults with special needs throughout the area, including his 26-year-old daughter Vivian who has Down syndrome, with his commitment to help others and to share his time and talents. His work with Porto Caravan No. 104, a local Catholic fraternal men’s organization of the International Order of Alhambra, raised $79,000 last year during its SpecialKids/Special Needs second collection at 45 local churches, thanks to the support of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. Money raised during this October’s Disability AwarenessMonth, also dubbed Respect Life Month, will support local programs serving special needs individuals. Alonso’s efforts didn’t stop at the field, but went into the classroom, as well. He founded the Options Program at Paul VI Catholic High School and the Learning into Future Environments (LIFE) Program at George Mason University, both in Fairfax. The programs serve people with intellectual disabilities and have become prototypes for similar programs, including Pope John Paul the Great High School’s Options Program, which is directed by a Paul VI graduate.
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