Having a job is about more than a paycheck; it improves confidence, self-esteem, creates greater self-sufficiency, and aids in building a rewarding life. Donald Schendel, 54, Hand Packager at PRIDE Industries, has led a rewarding athletic and professional life. For nearly 15 years, Donald has worked in community and supported employment positions through PRIDE. Recently, Donald’s accomplishments made history.
Donald’s story began at an early age; he was diagnosed with Down syndrome as a child. His doctor called it a “nervous condition.” Months passed and the “nervous condition” did not go away, so his parent’s consulted other doctors. Repeatedly, doctors recommended institutionalization, a common practice in those days. After barely making it through an institution tour, Donald’s parents decided it was not an option for the family. Donald was raised as a typical child with his older siblings.
Sports were encouraged at the Schendel household; Donald’s brother and sister grew up playing sports. His father, DeWayne Schendel, was a softball player in their town. It was not a surprise when DeWayne introduced Donald to baseball at the age of 10. Soon after, DeWayne recognized Donald’s athletic abilities and encouraged his involvement with Special Olympics. “I am so thankful that we chose to raise Donald at home and can now look back at what he has accomplished over the years,” says DeWayne.
Donald has accomplished a lot. For more than 40 years, he has participated in Special Olympics. He has played many sports including Cross-Country skiing, Snowshoe Racing, Basketball, Bocce Ball, Swimming, Track & Field, Golf, Softball, and Bowling. Through training and coaching from Special Olympics coaches, Donald has won 218 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals!
In early 2014, Donald was inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2014. Donald made history as the first Special Olympics inductee into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame. “The award (Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2014) is unbelievable,” says DeWayne. When we asked Donald how he manages work and Special Olympics he simply says, “I like both.” Donald has joined the ranks of Dusty Baker, MLB player, Kevin Johnson, NBA athlete, and Summer Sanders, Olympic Swimmer, as a member of the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame.
The road to triumph has not always been easy; the award came at a time when Donald and DeWayne needed a boost in morale. Donald’s mother passed away in 2012 and soon after Donald was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Donald has lost some of his abilities – he is no longer able to use a calculator or write his full name without assistance. Although the future is not clear, Donald enjoys coming to work each day and will continue to participate in Special Olympics for as long as possible.
“We love having Donald as a part of our team here at PRIDE,” says Art Delao, Donald’s Case Manager at PRIDE Industries. “I am so proud of his achievement and I am sure this won’t be the last of his accomplishments!”
PRIDE Industries is proud of Donald; we will continue to cheer him on at work and in his athletic endeavors. As the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games kick off, we are also cheering on another PRIDE athlete competing in the national games, click here to view Brian’s story.