Alicia Paul: My Sibling Story

My name is Alicia. I am a fellow at Special Olympics, a student, a daughter, a future public health professional, and a sibling of a person with an intellectual disability (ID). Biologically speaking, I was born an only child. However, I was raised as Billy Quick’s younger sister and have never felt like anything less. Billy was a Special Olympics athlete, a Global Messenger, and an inspiration to many. As an international spokesperson for Special Olympics, Billy became known for his quote, “You might out read me, but I can out run you.”

Billy leading the athlete oath at the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games

My parents first met Billy when he was eight years old. He was just beginning his Special Olympics career and my mom was the local Program Coordinator. There was an instant connection between my parents and him, and he immediately became a part of the family. Over the years, my parents looked after Billy and pushed him to fulfill his potential in athletics, school and life. Years later when I was born, Billy was at the hospital and even blessed me with the name “Alicia.” He has been at every monumental moment in my life since.

Billy and Alicia posing with Sargent Shriver and their family at the kickoff for the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. From left to right: Dennis Paul, Sargent Shriver, Alicia Paul, Billy Quick and Sherry Paul.
Billy Congratulating Alicia at her high school graduation

Growing up, I felt that there was a difference between my peers and me, but could not easily identify what it was. Today, I know that my identity as a sibling of a person with ID is what shaped me differently. As Billy’s sister, I felt immense pride in his athletic and public speaking abilities. I understood the power of looking past someone’s “disabilities” and appreciating their strengths. I attribute these characteristics to the time I spent supporting Billy at his Special Olympics events. I spent much of my childhood cheering him on from the sidelines as he ran marathons and competed in triathlons in record time. My siblingship with Billy influenced my experiences as I grew older, and I found a community in Special Olympics. As a teenager, I frequently attended and volunteered at Special Olympics sporting events, and eventually became a college intern for Special Olympics North Carolina. Being Billy’s sister has even influenced my career goals, as I aim to work with at-risk populations like people with ID to promote health equity.

Billy and Alicia at the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games Healthy Athletes screenings

When I heard that Special Olympics was starting a new initiative to engage siblings of people with ID, I knew I had to be a part of it. With the support of the Samuel Family Foundation, the Sibling Engagement initiative aims to 1) promote sibling involvement in Special Olympics events and activities; 2) share siblings’ stories to make their experiences salient to others; 3) create resources to support their social-emotional wellbeing; and 4) research the experiences of siblings of people with ID. Upon reading the description, I instantly recognized the need for this program and was eager to help other siblings enjoy the same benefits of Special Olympics that I had experienced. I applied for the Sibling Engagement Fellow position and began working in July 2018.

Billy and Alicia sitting together after he had been reading to her

I am now six months into my fellowship and have learned more than I could have anticipated. The staff at Special Olympics have invested their time and energy in helping me become a powerful change-agent. Through guidance and mentorship, they have provided me with a toolbox of skills including storytelling, graphic design, video production and research. Special Olympics is constantly reminding me that it is supporting me just as much as I am supporting it. In this role, I have felt valued as more than an employee, but as a person who deserves the resources and support to constantly learn and grow. I am confident that with the knowledge and skills this organization has given me, I am now better equipped to promote acceptance and inclusion in all that I do.

Billy and Alicia at the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament

This fellowship has also taught me a great deal about sibling experiences and relationships across the globe. In just a few short months, Special Olympics has held four international sibling workshops in Africa, Latin America, Asia Pacific and Middle East North Africa. I have had the opportunity to read and listen to stories from siblings all over the world; it is incredible the similarities we share. However, I have also learned that while we have many commonalities, every sibling’s story is different. In six months, my understanding of the sibling experience has expanded from my personal story with Billy to an appreciation for the uniqueness of every other sibling’s story.

I am extremely excited for what the remainder of this fellowship has to offer and I am looking forward to continuing to learn about sibling relationships and experiences across the globe. I believe that the lessons I will learn along the way will enable me to be a more skillful and conscious public health professional. In the meantime, I hope that the work I do as the Sibling Engagement Fellow will impact every sibling’s story.

For resources on sibling engagement in Special Olympics, click here:

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