Joy's her middle name My full name is Hanna Joy Atkinson, and I really like that Joy part, because I'm a joyful person. I love to speak. I did reporting for Channel 7, for a project called More Alike …
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Joy's her middle name
My full name is Hanna Joy Atkinson, and I really like that Joy part, because I'm a joyful person.
I love to speak. I did reporting for Channel 7, for a project called More Alike Than Different, and we won a Daytime Emmy. I gave the 2014 commencement address at Heritage High School. I've been told I'm radiant, and that I have the gift of gab.
My second family
The Special Olympics are my second family. They've brought me so much joy and camaraderie. They found me at age 13, and it was a place of belonging, where I have a voice.
I've competed in bike racing, skiing and swimming. I'll be participating in skiing at the state level in February. My father and my brother are my coaches. Hopefully I'll win a lot of gold medals!
I'm one of a handful of Special Olympians chosen as a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger. We're ambassadors for the Special Olympics.
It's a great honor. You get a chance to do VIP tours, opening and closing ceremonies, panels, blogs and anything to share our work in Special Olympics. I've worked with Apolo Ohno, the Olympic gold medalist speed skater. I've traveled to events in Aspen, Paris and Abu Dhabi.
I also travel to Washington to speak with representatives to advocate for Special Olympics. We need more people involved, and government funding is essential.
Friends around the world
My travel has given me a chance to speak other languages. I know enough words to be polite in Arabic and French now, and I've gotten a chance to make friends and connections around the world. I get home and I'm just smiling from ear to ear.
I've working on launching a health-focused public speaking business called Wholeheartedly Hanna. I'm dedicating it to my brother Jeff, who was a Special Olympics coach too. He died in a skiing accident shortly after I graduated high school.
Surviving cancer and enduring the death of my brother were difficult, but they gave me more confidence. The more I experience life, the more I want to share a message of joy. No matter who you are, there's a place for you. I know what it's like to feel isolated and rejected. I don't want anyone else to experience that.
Sometimes people underestimate me or make assumptions about me. But that's their opinion. I'm more than just someone with a disability. I know who I am.
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