If you’ve spent any time on the Special Olympics Florida Facebook pages, you’ve seen Beatriz Sousa.
Over the last two years, “Bea” has been a fixture there, teaching virtual fitness classes and promoting healthy habits. Through those classes, she’s become a minor celebrity and friend to many of our athletes.
A University of South Florida student, Bea is one of the more than 38,000 volunteers who make the work of Special Olympics Florida possible. She began volunteering at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Special Olympics Florida was a perfect fit, she says, “because it combines some of the things I love the most: exercising, nutrition, teaching and advocating.”
Her online classes started small, with just two or three athletes signing on. But as word spread, they grew, and now they attract 15-20 athletes per class. Bea, a native of Brazil, records each workout and posts to Facebook, for athletes who can’t make the live class.
Those virtual connections have led to real-life relationships. In early April, Bea drove to Ocoee to meet a group of athletes from her class and support them as they ran a 5k. Photos from the day show lots of laughs, plenty of hugs, and even a little dancing. Bea calls the day, “the most amazing opportunity I’ve ever had.”
“I am blessed to know them,” she says of her friends. “I want to encourage everyone to see all the beautiful things they can do.”