Photo Credit: Freddie B. Photography™
SpecialNeeds.com has been excited to be part of the past several days attending many of the competitions and events surrounding the largest sporting event of its kind. We had the honor of following one extra special individual, Steven Dodd, a member of Team GB. He is a kind and selfless individual whose family was fortunate enough to be here and see him compete in a sport he is passionate about, kayaking. A unique man that has a grand sense of humor, love of the “real heroes” of our modern times, and can make his way around the water with speed and grace. We visited on two of the 6 days of events and witnessed him in action in and out of his kayak. The family members in attendance, his mom, Pat Dodd, younger sisters Jackie and Paris all went out of their way to make us feel as welcome as if we were at their home in Plymouth, England. Steven’s father, Graham, and brother, sadly were not able to make the trip but he was well represented by his coach in Great Britain, Andrew Beynon.
When first I met Steven, it was by chance on Facebook that I came across his profile. As a journalist it was my job to find out about the athletes who would be participating in Special Olympics World Games LA2015. I learned early on that just because you approved to cover an event, doesn’t mean the powers that be are able to get you the intended interviews you need, as they do get overwhelmed with interview request. When I sent a message to Steven about who I was and would he grant me an interview, after he looked me up, he was all too happy to oblige. What luck for me, as there was a lot more to the man besides kayaking.
In my first interview with Steven via Skype, we learn that his nick-name, “Padrino” is italian for “Godfather.” It wasn’t until I actually met him at the games, spent time with his family, and sat down for a meal, that I learned why. Steven has a certain charisma and charm about him. His presence commands attention, but not in the way a boss or supervisor would. It is more like that of someone who knows who they are, what they want, and has the personal fortitude to make things happen.
My photographer, Freddie Bommer and I, were invited after the time trials beginning of the Olympics Games to have lunch at the condo his family was renting during their stay. First of all, a home cooked meal sounded great after eating on the run, and Steven’s family are such genuinely lovely people, we just couldn’t say no.
Steven, the proud father of a trusted companion, a boxer named Brook, knew that I too,owned a dog named Clancy. Once we arrived to the condo, overlooking the Long Beach coastline and aquarium, he had a gift for my pup! I also received a gift, one of his famous T-shirts that have been making their way to folks around the globe in support of Stevens fear of flying. It was a therapeutic exercise for Steven to use as a way of easing his fear to be on an airplane. Something he had to do in order to participate in his philanthropy with Smiles International, where he volunteers with a dental staff to third world countries that are not fortunate to have dentists. He got folks to take pictures of themselves in the T-Shirts, sporting a picture of Dodd in his Kayak, and his Mascot at the forend, Toby! Steven enjoys the slide show of supportive fans on his ipad while traveling by plane. I loved the way he was so humble when he handed me the shirt, telling me I don’t have to wear it, but I insisted on being part of “TEAM DODD!”
After a wonderful meal that sister Jackie prepared, we sat in the living room and took the opportunity to get to know even more about the man behind the kayak. Pat, his mother, gave SpecialNeeds.com some insight to her son. “My son is the kind of man that is a go getter, and always puts others needs before his own. A very selfless individual, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is a great fundraiser and really works hard to fulfill the immediate needs of others. When he needed funds so he could get to Los Angeles for the world games, many donated to make it happen.” She went on to say, “We didn’t know of the Special Olympics until three years ago. We found it would be a lot of work, but because we knew he was good at his kayaking, with great upper body strength and someone who could accomplish anything he set his mind too, it seemed we needed to support him trying out for it.” Pat said weather he won medals or not would be the icing on the cake, but being a part of something this positive was motivation enough to help Steven to get here.
Jackie, his younger sister, said they all felt really honored to be here to witness her brother in the Special Olympics and was so pleased with how her family has been so welcomed by all since their arrival. When I asked her what advice she could give others about being involved with the Special Olympics she said, “Take the bull by the horns, take the risk, take the chance and go and get involved. You make friends, you get to experience all sorts of new things and you don’t have to be the best at the sport. It is about taking part and socializing with other people and it is about enjoying life and getting out there, so just go and do it!” When Jackie and Steven were kids, they were in a group of Jr. Marines, a very competitive group and though Steven was really great at it he was also very supportive of everyone he competed against.. Paris, his other sister, said that she loved seeing him achieve so much good things thanks to his involvement with a sport he loves!”
In my first interview with Steven Dodd, we learned that his heroes are Steven Seagal, The Navy Seals, and the American Swat, and he loves the police issued motorcycle made popular on one of his favorite shows growing up, CHiPs and the Harley Davidson Motorcycle. It took a great many phone calls, emails and patience, but alas I was successful and when we met him at the British Residency for a “Garden Party” Team GB was given, I brought them all to surprise Steven. The officers were wonderful; they brought Dodd awesome memorabilia and took photos for his album. Steven asked them all sorts of questions and got a chance to sit on the Harley itself. We kept it out of the press at the request of the Navy Seal, but it was a delight to see that the experience was a dream come true!
My signature question is always the same, so I asked the Stevens family who their “hero”. Pat, his mom told me that her son Steven, is her hero! It is clear that his actions are that of a “real hero!” If you or someone you know is in need, Steven Dodd is the man you want on your side. He not only can help you to raise the funds needed, but he does it with his whole heart, which by the way is GIGANTIC!
Thanks Steven, and congratulations on your Silver win today, and good luck with all of your future endeavors. I for one will be visiting Steven in Plymouth, as he has given me the great honor and asked me to write his incredible autobiography!
Facebook: Freddie B Photography