Written by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News
Joseph Berry has lived in Okeechobee since 1987. He was only 7 years old when the family moved to Okeechobee. He attended public schools and graduated from Okeechobee High School in 2001.
Even in the late ’80s, Joey was a part of Special Olympics. Running was his sport back then, but now he laughingly says he is too fat to run. He has a first place ribbon for the 50m dash and for the 100m dash. He was also a part of the first equestrian event Special Olympics held in Okeechobee. He liked the horses a lot, he said, but they no longer do equestrian in Okeechobee. He is hoping they will find someone to volunteer to bring it back here again one day.
Although Joey has participated in a lot of events over the years, his favorite is probably the softball throw, he said. Joey has been saving the ribbons he wins at Special Olympics and Special Stars’ events since he was a young boy.
Since things have shut down because of COVID-19, Joey has been spending a lot of time playing Minecraft. His caregiver, Tracy Nipper, does still pick him up a couple days a week. “It gives him something so do, and he doesn’t have to listen to me,” laughs his mom. Social Butterflies has started back with some activities like bingo, and recently they have been going out to Douglas Pond once a week.
Joey has a kind heart, and often when he wins at bingo, he donates his win to someone who has not won yet and allows that person to go up and choose a prize in his place.
Ashley is Joey’s younger sister by 10 years. “She is a pistol,” said her mom. Ashley is confined to a wheelchair and has a close relationship with her mom, Janet. She can often be seen rubbing her mom’s arm or back or pulling her glasses off. Ashley does have one fault, though: She is well-known as a pickpocket and thinks it is great fun to dig in any pocket near her.
Ashley went to public school here in Okeechobee. She is legally blind, and Jacque Hayes worked with her. One of her friends, Joseph Patrick, loved to help push her anywhere she needed to go. Ashley graduated in 2010.
When it comes to Special Olympics, Ashley likes most events because she just likes spending time with people. She truly is a social butterfly and lights up when she knows she is going to go see her friends. She does love bowling, too, and does what is called assisted ramp bowling. The Berrys laughed as they displayed some of Ashley’s ribbons. “Some of these say running,” said Janet Berry. “That must have been the races when Joey pushed her!”
Ashley’s favorite thing is going anywhere she can go. She has a new caregiver now, Betty Jo, who will be giving Berry a little bit of a break.
Everyone is eager for Special Olympics to start up again and life to get back to normal.