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Liberty’s Michelle Borja a Winning T-Shirt Designer for A Worthy Cause: Area 27 Special Olympics

by  Zoe Lowe and Jasmine Beverly, Patriot Press editors

The challenge was issued in January. Artistically talented high school students from throughout Fauquier County were needed to submit t-shirt designs for Area 27 Virginia Special Olympics. The designs needed to include a motivating and positive slogan, accurately represent Special Olympics sports such as swimming, bowling, basketball, track and field, bocce, tennis and volleyball, and, of course, mention Fauquier County Area 27 Special Olympics.

“We had 41 entries, which was great for our first attempt at the contest!  The designs varied and there were several that were hard to decide between!  There were a mix of graphic-oriented designs and drawn designs.  Each and every design was unique, which was the cool part about doing the contest,” explained Lauren Milburn, an assistant principal at Liberty and an Area 27 Special Olympics board member. 

Students from Fauquier, Kettle Run, Highland, Southeastern, and Liberty responded to the challenge, but ultimately, one designer rose to the top. “I originally decided to enter the contest to show off my work, not just for the prize. I knew I wanted to create my design using Photoshop and Illustrator. My goal was to create something that would make Special Olympics athletes and supporters feel incredible and awesome. I think that is exactly how they’ll feel when they wear my design!” said Michelle Borja, the designer of the winning shirt.

Borja’s design features a bold color scheme of red, white, and blue and the slogan “Heroes come in many forms” on the back of the shirt. The design has a whimsical comic book vibe that led judges to declare it a winner.  “Michelle’s design was great – it has a cape on it for super heroes and we are all super heroes in our own way,” said Master Deputy Chris Meyer, the school resource officer at Liberty and an Area 27 board member.

“For some reason, as soon as I saw Michelle’s design, it stuck with me.  Even as the designs were coming in, Michelle’s just kept coming back to me.  I think when the board voted, several of them felt the same way.  It was such a cool, unique spin on Special Olympics and the message was exactly what we were looking for,” commented Lauren Milburn.

The shirts will be produced and sold as a fundraising item to anyone who would like to purchase one.    “The t-shirts are for anyone who would like to support Area 27.  We wanted a t-shirt that families and friends could wear to show their support for our athletes.  At competitions away from our area, we would be able to show others that we support our athletes and represent our area,” said Gigi Meyer, a teacher at Ritchie Elementary and Area 27 board member.

 “The t-shirt design contest was a huge success. We had students participate from Liberty, Kettle Run, Fauquier, and Highland high schools. The designs varied from simple to very detailed. At this time, we have not discussed if this will take place again next year because this (the shirt sale) is a fundraiser; we will have to see how successful it is. I am not sure if another t-shirt will be needed as soon as next year,” added Gigi Meyer.

The t-shirt design contest is just one way that Area 27 board members embraced the idea of increasing community involvement in Special Olympics in our area.  “I think overall the board is making a real effort to reach out to people in the community.  When Deputy Meyer came to LHS as our school resource officer, he brought opportunities to volunteer with Special Olympics with him.  Our students and staff embraced these opportunities and we have hosted fundraising and awareness activities; additionally, our students and staff have logged thousands of volunteer hours.  We can always take more volunteers in Area 27 Special Olympics!  We always need people willing to coach or help out with different events.  We have our annual track meet coming up and we need lots of volunteers for many different things, even just cheering in the stands!  Anyone can reach out to me or to Deputy Meyer or any Area 27 board member for more information,” explained Lauren Milburn.

“Everyone needs an opportunity to show family and friends what they can accomplish.  Special Olympics, through their sport programs, is one way athletes can learn new things from a group of dedicated coaches, volunteers and other athletes.  We can teach and show sportsmanship, respect, and appreciation to other athletes even if they are struggling,” explained Neil Rossmeissl, an Area 27 Special Olympics board member.

Volunteering for this worthy cause can be incredibly rewarding in many ways. “I’ve been involved in Special Olympics since 1986 and it has been a huge part of my life.  Special Olympics provides opportunities for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities.  Being around the athletes always puts a smile on my face – it is usually what they do for me, not what I can do for them.  We hope what we do in Fauquier County can help lead to inclusiveness and awareness,” stated Deputy Meyer.

Special Olympics volunteers are needed at the local level all year long. If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Sandra Chamberlin @ s_chamberlin@msn.com.  Special Olympics Virginia Volunteer forms are available at http://specialolympicsva.org/who-we-are/find-special-olympics-near-you/rappahannock-region/area-27 , and upcoming events in our area are also listed on this page. Area 27 is part of the Rappahannock Region.