A COACH AND A MENTOR
LOHS junior Bryan Gilmore supports special needs children at school and in the community
A Lake Oswego teen has inspired his whole family to join his efforts to help special needs children, including coaching Special Olympics athletes and training a guide dog for a child with autism.
Bryan Gilmore, who is now a junior, started volunteering with special needs students in his freshman year at Lake Oswego High School. Last school year, he inspired his family to help Otis, a cream retriever, gain basic skills for the Autism Service Dogs of America program. Each service dog provides safety and comfort to a child with autism.
Now, Gilmores a Special Olympics volunteer coach and a paid mentor. He says he discovered in himself a love of giving to people with special needs a feeling that not only blossomed for him but also for his entire family. They all soon became active volunteers with Special Olympics.
These athletes inspire you, Gilmore says. Even though they may have the odds against them in some cases, they seem to generally be happy and excited to be there. They dont seem to care how much money you have, or how you dress. They treat each other equally and with great respect. It is admirable to watch this each and every week.
After coaching Special Olympics soccer in the fall, Gilmore encouraged others to join him in coaching basketball in the winter. Longtime friend Nick Emmert, also an LOHS junior, agreed. So did Bob and Cole Strachan, Gilmores soon-to-be stepfather and stepbrother. Cole Strachan is a freshman at Washington State University-Vancouver.
Working with one of my life-long friends, Nick, and soon-to-be stepbrother was very fun, Gilmore says. We had a lot of laughs with the athletes. We loved talking about how to help them each week. The athletes would wait for us to show up for practice. A couple of them would watch us drive up and run out to give us a hug. They were so excited that we were just there.
Gilmore has worked with special needs children before, participating weekly in Young Life Capernaum for intellectually challenged kids. He also helps in programs at his school, such as peer mentoring, a class through which mainstream students help students with special needs on classwork or with life skills.
Concussions moved him to step away from school basketball and football teams, but Gilmore is a member of Catholic Youth Organization and Lake Oswego City League basketball teams in addition to his Special Olympics coaching. (Gilmores team won the City League Junior/Senior Championships in March.)
Because Gilmore wasnt 18, he couldnt serve as head coach of the Special Olympics team. So Bob Strachan, a former basketball player himself, agreed to take on the job but only after the young volunteers promised to help out in a big way.
And they did, he says. They were instrumental in our success this season as we worked closely together to come up with a new practice plan each week, develop specific drills to meet the needs of the team and coach the team in the regional tournament.
Athletes on the team, called the Clackamas Sharpshooters, range in age from their late teens to their 60s, yet Strachan says a deep bond has developed between the teen coaches and all of the players.
There were a couple of weeks when one or another of the assistant coaches was absent from practice, he says. On each occasion, the athletes were very concerned and wanted to make sure that (the teens) would be attending the following practice. It was clear that the athletes were very attached to the coaches and missed them very much.
He adds that the coaches and team like to keep it light and joke around with one another.
One of the teams favorite moments was when the top-level team requested to scrimmage our coaches, he says. Our team cheered from the sidelines as we scrimmaged with other athletes. The pride they exuded made them feel like one big team.
Mom Laura Gilmore, who is engaged to marry Bob Strachan, attends the games as well, handling logistics such as scheduling and transportation. She also teaches a nutrition class to Special Olympics athletes on Saturday mornings. She says her whole family is active in volunteering, including her other soon-to-be stepchild, Kaylee Strachan, a University of Washington sophomore who long has supported the homeless population.
But its Bryan Gilmores efforts that are attracting a lot of attention of late. He recently was nominated for The Lake Oswego Reviews Amazing Kids contest by representatives from Special Olympics of Clackamas County, Capernaum and Autism Service Dogs of America.
I couldnt be more proud, said Kirt Gilmore, Bryans father.
The young man has collected a slew of accolades.
It is volunteers like Bryan that make it possible for these service dogs to provide the skills needed to change the lives of not only the child with autism they get placed with, but also that childs entire family, says Kati Wolfe, Autism Service Dogs of Americas placement and training director.
Special Olympics volunteer Matt Stevens says Gilmore and Emmert are an asset to Special Olympics, as are the other coaches who help the Clackamas Sharpshooters stay true to their name every Friday evening.
Special Olympics is a great organization and would love to have more volunteers like Bryan Gilmore and Nick Emmert, Stevens says.
Gilmore can be trusted with paperwork for the teams and he has great skill with the athletes, says Joanne Trask, a local program coordinator for Clackamas County Special Olympics.
He pays close attention to the individual personalities and abilities of our athletes so that he can modify his interactions and coaching approach based on what would work best, Trask says. It appears to be important to him personally that each athlete that he works with experiences success and fun.
Special Olympics volunteer coaches Mark Shanders and Paula Guthrie say they both are impressed with Bryan Gilmore.
He was actually asked by one of our athletes parents to help mentor their child with autism, Shanders says. He now has a paid position as a mentor.
Bryan Gilmore also has been active with Capernaum since January 2016 and has been amazing, says Colleen Kendall, Lake Oswego Young Life Capernaum Ministries director.
He is a natural at working with kids with disabilities, Kendall says. Bryan has shown much patience and kindness to all of our Capernaum friends. He has a servants heart.
Bob Strachan says the Strachan-Gilmore family will be teaming up again this spring for Special Olympics golf. Looking even further into the future, Bryan Gilmore says hes interested in pursuing a career in special needs, possibly as a teacher.
Hes finding he has a gift for it, says his mom. They really like him, and they like being with him.
But wherever this young man goes, hes learned something powerful.
Although these athletes have intellectual disabilities, they have the same needs as all of us, he says. To have fun, have friends, win their game or at least do your best, and to be part of a team.
HIRE BRYAN AND COLE