Donald and DeWayne (dad) - Photos by Dante Fontana - © Style Media Group
Gallery: Donald Schendel - April 2014 [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Amber FosterLincoln resident Donald Schendel was introduced to Special Olympics when he was just 10 years old; since then, he’s gone on to win more than 215 medals in a wide range of sports, including basketball, bocce ball, and his favorite—softball. Schendel, now 54, lives with his father, DeWayne, and works five days a week for PRIDE Industries, an organization that provides meaningful employment to people with disabilities. In January of this year, Schendel was inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, an experience he sees as the high point of over four decades of athletic accomplishment. “I held [the plaque] with both hands,” he enthuses, and his father couldn’t be more proud. “I was elated,” he says, remembering all the athletes who came up to meet his son after the ceremony. “It’s been a wonderful experience to show what a person can do with equal opportunity.”
Diagnosed with Down syndrome as a child, Schendel climbed an uphill battle to obtain educational and employment opportunities. As an infant, doctors advised his parents to place him in an institution, a common practice at the time for children with intellectual disabilities. His parents rejected the idea; instead, they taught him independence and employment skills. He’s worked steady jobs throughout his life, in addition to participating in many athletic activities. It hasn’t always been easy, however. Schendel’s mother passed away in 2012, and recently he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite these obstacles, his father continues to be his biggest advocate—volunteering tirelessly with Special Olympics and spending 40-plus years as head coach. DeWayne also remains optimistic about his son’s future. “I’ve had experiences the likes of which few people get to have,” he shares. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
For more about Donald Schendel and other local happenings and information, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style – Roseville, Granite Bay, Rocklin edition.