By Kirsten Jewel,
volunteer, Northeast Community Center
Born in Seoul, Korea, Henry Meece was adopted by Nancy Newell and Ted Meece at the age of six months and brought home to the United States. This year, the 22-year-old snowboarder was selected to join four other talented Oregonians to compete in the Special Olympics World Games, which took place in PyeongChang, South Korea, January 29th to February 5, 2013. When Henry stepped off the plane, everything in the airport was in Korean not English. All he could say was “Oh my!” Then he had an experience of a lifetime.
Like many other children, Henry learned to swim at the former Northeast Family YMCA, now the Northeast Community Center (NECC). His family chose to continue their membership with the NECC after the “Y” closed. You might recognize Henry from the many volunteer hours he has given our community. Henry has volunteered at the NECC year after year at the fireworks stand, which raises funds to support youth programs at the center. During high school, he volunteered weekly during the summer, to wipe down the equipment in the weight and cardio rooms at the NECC. Henry also has volunteered with Loaves and Fishes and currently is a dishwasher on Saturdays at Albertina Kerr.
Henry is a Grant High School graduate. Since his neighborhood elementary school, Laurelhurst, did not offer special education services, Henry attended Rice, Jason Lee, Vestal, Creston and Beaumont. As Nancy, his mother, says, “Finally, upon reaching high school age, he entered Grant where, for the first time ever, he attended his neighborhood school and had four wonderful years in the same hallways. He loved Grant and participated in many things: Cross Country, Track and Field, Snowboarding, Bowling and the Friend’s First Club.”
After graduating from Grant, Henry attended Portland Public Schools Community Transition Program (Green Thumb Campus) for two years working on vocational skills. After receiving his certificate, he was accepted to Portland Community College and completed the Culinary Assistant Program. Currently he is working with a job developer and hopes to obtain a job. Henry is a busy fellow participating in PHAME Choir, Wasabi Paddling Club Special Dragons TeamSpecial Olympics Snowboarding, , rex skating at Oaks Park, and bicycling.
Henry suffered a birth trauma which caused his intellectual disability, but his competiveness and dedication to learning new skills has made him a successful athlete. According to the Special Olympics, “more than 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability, making it the largest disability group worldwide. Intellectual disability crosses racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic lines, and can occur in any family.” At the Winter Special Olympics World Games, the competitors had the chance to show off their athletic skills as they competed in events such as alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, snowboarding and other sports. Henry competed in the men’s advanced snowboarding division in the Slalom, securing fourth place, and placing sixth in the Giant Slalom event. On his last race of the games, Henry came in first in the men’s Super Giant Slalom event, bringing home the gold medal.
If you see Henry in the neighborhood, congratulate him on his successes and thank him for representing our community, state and nation at the Special Olympics World Games in Korea this year.
For more information about the Northeast Community Center, visit our website, necommunitycenter.org, or stop by 1630 N.E. 38th Ave. for a free tour.