NORTH WALES — Katie Spencer was recognized for leaving her mark in the community at the second annual Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation Charity Softball Game on May 31.
The event was held at Citizens Bank Park where three nominees, including Katie, were honored for “leaving a mark by using their abilities, talents and passions to help others locally and abroad.”
Katie is 30 years old and has Down syndrome, but has not let that stop her charge to contribute to the community through spirited service.
At the softball game, she was able to meet Carson Wentz and was put on the park’s “Phanavision” where her various forms of service and participation in the community were celebrated by those in attendance.
These forms of outreach include work with Best Buddies, Corpus Christi Church’s Helping Other People Everyday (HOPE) program, Living Branches’ Dock Woods residence, Special Olympics and Variety, The Children’s Charity.
Katie has been a part of the latter two, Special Olympics and Variety, for over 20 years now.
At Variety, Katie found a place where she could pursue her passion, sports, and make friends while having a fun time.
She also had the opportunity to go from a participant and athlete at Variety to a counselor-in-training, before joining the summer vocational program designed to teach job readiness skills and socialization to children with developmental disabilities in the “transition ages” of 16 to 21 years old.
“Katie is a beautiful example of what Variety is and does because she has participated in almost all the programs that are offered,” said Mary Fuller, community relations and outreach director at Variety.
In her time with Variety, Katie has raised over $30,000 and currently is an ambassador for the organization.
“She amazes us because she exemplifies what we try and promote in everybody [Variety] touches,” Fuller said. “She brings a passion and genuine heart to everything she does.”
Katie’s time with the Special Olympics, like her time with Variety, has allowed her to pursue her passion as well, while also taking a leadership role in a team environment.
By assuming this role in sports, Katie became passionate about watching not just her own success, but the success of others.
She said she strives to build on her progress as a team leader by “continuing to be out in the community and get better at playing sports and helping others play better too.”
Those who have been around Katie cannot help but see the evolution of the progress she has made over time.
Two of the people who have recognized Katie’s drive and work ethic are her Special Olympic coaches, Craig and Peg Eitl.
These two have worked with Katie since the early 2000s and have seen her commitment to sportsmanship and helping others grow as she matured herself.
“Katie has always been competitive and loves to win,” Craig Eitl said. “She’s learned to accept loss with grace and has shown leadership by modeling the right behaviors. She exemplifies sportsmanship.”
Between Katie’s work in the community and her growth into an outgoing leader as a member of it, she has been able to reap the benefits of an exciting social life that has left a positive impact on others.
Part of this progression can also be contributed to Katie’s support system who have noticeably impacted Katie’s life in athletics and service.
The main person Katie has affected is her greatest influencer and the one who nominated her for the AO1 Leave Your Mark award — her mother, Diane.
For the past 30 years, Diane has been side by side with Katie as she grew into a young woman with ambition focused towards activity and helping others.
She believes programs like those Katie has been a part of have been the cornerstone of her development and confidence.
“It has made her way more self-confident,” Diane said about Katie’s outreach in the community. “[Her participation] gave her more confidence to want to do more.”
Diane also noted that the coaches and mentors she had when she was younger helped her become better at interacting with others and build on a philosophy that athletes and volunteers have to help both themselves and others.
It was factors like this which made being honored by the AO1 Foundation so special for the Spencer family.
“I think it is wonderful that she is recognized for all her hard work,” Diane said.
As much as she appreciates this recognition, Katie hopes her story and contribution to the community can serve as motivation to everyone, specifically those faced with developmental disabilities, and show that anyone can make the effort to go out and help others.
“Katie does not see herself as having a disability,” Diane said. “Her attitude is not ‘I can’t do this,’ it is ‘How can I do this?’”