Katy Special Olympian serves as Global Messenger
Shelby Day has a mind like a steel trap when it comes to remembering dates.
That’s a good thing for the 28-year-old Katy woman because she has a full calendar of activities from volunteering to competing in Special Olympics and the SIRE Therapeutic Horsemanship riding program.
Her parents, Kari and Steve Day moved to Katy from Blackwell, Oklahoma, when Shelby was in second-grade and her brother, Joshua, was in kindergarten, because their dad was transferred by Conoco.
“God truly blessed us,” said Kari Day.
Slow in development, Shelby initially was diagnosed with static encephalopathy, which later was changed to a rare chromosome disorder found in no one else, said Day. Years of therapy and training followed.
Through attending a kids program at Mary Jo Peckham Park, Day learned about SIRE. Shelby will mark 20 years in the therapeutic riding program this fall.
“It’s been a wonderful thing,” said her mother. “It’s made a difference in all areas: gross and fine motor skills, cognitively and emotionally.
“When she started she was so afraid of everything,” said Day. That included the horses.
With a large smile, Shelby wears a pink helmet and a Special Olympics T-shirt that she helped design as she rides around an inside ring and then on an outdoor course on March 27. Once a week she rides at the Hockley stables of SIRE.
Last April, Shelby was named athlete of the year at opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Texas Area 6 Equestrian Competition.
Her horseback riding is not limited to SIRE. She participates in the Top Hands Horse Show offered by the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo for physically challenged riders of all ages who compete in six events.
This year, Shelby came home a winner with a belt buckle for first place in English equitation and trophies for fifth place in trail riding and sixth place in showmanship at halter.
Then she helped out at the HLS&R’s Lil’ Rustlers Rodeo for children with special needs.
The Katy High School graduate volunteers at her church Katy First United Methodist’s Daybreak program, which provides a respite for Alzheimer’s patients caregivers.
Through her church, she volunteers, too, with the Musical Monday Funday, an after-school program, and she belongs to the church choir.
Shelby also volunteers with Early Childhood Intervention Project TYKE through the Katy Independent School District which provides services for children ages 0-2 who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or visually impaired. Once a week, Shelby, who learned office and clerical skills through Lone Star College, works in the Project TYKE office.
As a member of Katy Wolf Pack, a Special Olympics Texas Team, she has competed in basketball, softball, track and field, golf, bowling, aquatics and cheerleading for people with intellectual disabilities. Her mother said the only activities she has not competed in are soccer and bocce ball.
Shelby’s looking forward to track competition and displays medals she has won for her skills in mini-javelin, the 100-meter dash and 4x100M relay.
In talking of his daughter’s schedule, her dad said, “It’s nonstop. It seems like we always have something going on.”
Volunteering comes naturally to Shelby because both her parents contributed to the community. Her dad served as a Boy Scout Troop leader and at church. Her mom held PTA offices at the elementary and junior high schools and both parents were active in the Future Farmers of America program at Katy High School with their two kids.
Shelby’s recent nomination as a Global Messenger spokesperson for the Special Olympics program made a busy schedule even busier.
The appointment came after Shelby met Jenni Sellers, director of development, Special Olympics, and told her of her campaigning for candidates running in the city of Katy. As a Global Messenger, Shelby tailors her approach to her audience, explained her mother, talking to legislators about voting for particular bills, talking to supporters about fundraising “or just educating people about what Special Olympics is about.”
Special Olympics is 50 years old, having been founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Shelby recently spoke at an invitation-only fundraiser in Austin where she shared the stage with Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International and the founder’s son. Having an audience of 400 didn’t daunt her. “I love speaking in front of people,” said Shelby. “I was excited to be there.”
Part of her speech included a reference to the Global Messenger appointment coming at the right time. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough,” she said. Her mother said that Shriver took notes as Shelby spoke and referred to her comments in his talk.
On March 12, she also visited Austin with her parents during Special Olympics Texas Capitol Day. She met Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst.
On her Facebook page, Kolkhorst wrote “I had the privilege of meeting Olympian Shelby Day and her parents Kari and Stephen from Katy. Shelby competes in equestrian, swimming, golf and many other sports. She showed me all of the medals she’s won throughout the years. Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. To Shelby and all of the special Olympian’s, way to go and keep on winning!”
For Shelby though one of the best parts about Special Olympics isn’t the competitions and all the ribbons, it’s all the friends she’s made.
Her mom said, “We do what we have to do to help her become the person she’s meant to be. She’s taken us places we never would have gone.”