Wake up, open the door, let me see let me see the sun so the sun so warm on me.

Wake up, and hear the birds sing so sweet of sound.

Wake up, enjoy the warm air, the breeze that takes my breath away.

Wake up, and see the freedom of the ocean’s blue, the birds that fly high and the soul of my heart.

-Melissa Giersch

Melissa.jpgMy name is Melissa Giersch. I am 37 years old, and I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have been part of the Special Olympics since I was 5 years old. My most memorable experience in the Special Olympics was the 1999 World Games in North Carolina. There, I played tennis and earned a gold medal in singles and came in 7th in doubles—that was really fun.

I also participated in the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. It was a blast and an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience—I earned 3rd place in doubles and 4th in singles tennis. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in an exhibition match with Michael Chang; it was really wonderful.

My favorite memories about the 2015 LA World Games Reach Up were the lifelong friendships, playing with Michael Chang, actually playing in the World Games, being with my teammates and representing my country—and thanks to Special Olympics, I got that chance! Thank you.

The Special Olympics are very important to me because they are a place to be accepted, respected and to be who we are.