Hall of Fame

Spe­cial Olympics hon­ors Ne­wark man

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By BROOKE SCHULTZ bschultz@ches­pub.com

Jon Stok­losa has a tat­too of Su­per­man’s in­signia on his arm. Ear­lier this month, he was rec­og­nized as a hero him­self when he was in­ducted into the Spe­cial Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame.

“I’m a hero,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Stok­losa is known for his pow­er­lift­ing, where he has benched 405 pounds raw. In his ca­reer, he’s racked up ac­co­lades, too: in the 1999 Spe­cial Olympics World Games, he won gold and two bronze medals. A few years later, he earned the ti­tle of the 2006 Spe­cial Olympics Delaware Out­stand­ing Ath­lete. As he con­tin­ued to com­pete, he went on to win four gold medals at the 2010 USA Games. In the 2014 USA Games, he took three golds and a sil­ver.

“It’s fun, and you work hard,” he said.

His fa­ther, Hank, added that the at­ten­tion he gets from it cer­tainly doesn’t hurt.

Jon be­gan pow­er­lift­ing with his two broth­ers when he was 11 years old – “in the base­ment, like ev­ery­body else started,” Liz, his mother, added.

He beat his broth­ers in bench and be­gan com­pet­ing in the Spe­cial Olympics when he was 16.

“Jonathan has had a ex­cel­lent ca­reer in Spe­cial Olympics,” Hank said. “But all the time that he spent get­ting ready and ev­ery­thing, it was sort of a waste be­cause they had very few meets, so we started go­ing to reg­u­lar meets.”

Trav­el­ing and com­pet­ing through 10 states, Jon of­ten took sec­ond or third in those meets, oc­ca­sion­ally com­ing in first, too. Hank said that some­times peo­ple have un­der­es­ti­mated Jon due to the fact he has Down syn­drome, but that hasn’t stopped him.

“One day, a whole bunch of guys, they kept look­ing at him like, ‘Get out of my way, get out of my way,’” Hank re­called. “His open­ing at­tempt was 365 pounds and he put away put away 75 per­cent of the peo­ple in there. It was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for them.”

In ad­di­tion to teach­ing peo­ple through his ac­tions, Jon trav­els to dif­fer­ent schools around the area as part of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” cam­paign, which en­deav­ors to elim­i­nate the deroga­tory use of the word “re­tarded.”

“The only r-word is re­spect,” Liz said, adding that some­times stu­dents see Jon af­ter he’s spo­ken at their school and come up to him and say they re­mem­ber his talk. “That’s a good thing be­cause the kids re­mem­ber.”

“It takes a lot of time,” Hank added. “Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that Jon has to take off work to do that.”

Jon has worked at the Pike Creek Acme since 2004, and his par­ents said that it’s been a sup­port­ive environment for him. Some of the staff came to cheer him on when he was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame Oct. 10.

Although he has de­scribed lift­ing as his life, Jon is an ath­lete of many trades, in­clud­ing vol­ley­ball, bas­ket­ball, swim­ming, golf­ing and bowl­ing. He’s re­cently taken up box­ing, which he does twice a week, in ad­di­tion to train­ing for weightlift­ing twice a week. He also wres­tled through­out his high school ca­reer at Ne­wark High School.

“He won one match and 61 he lost, but he never stopped,” Hank noted. “When do school talks, we talk about that – that ded­i­ca­tion to go just like all the other guys did.”

And that, in part, Hank said, is why Jon was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame dur­ing the Spe­cial Olympics Night of He­roes ban­quet.

“Pow­er­lift­ing was one area, but it wasn’t the only rea­son he got this,” Hank said.

Be­yond his ath­letic suc­cess, Jon par­tic­i­pates in fundrais­ers to sup­port Spe­cial Olympics – he’s darted into the freez­ing wa­ter in Fe­bru­ary at Re­hoboth Beach for the an­nual Po­lar Bear Plunge for 15 years. He’s re­pelled down the side of a 222-foot build­ing in Wilm­ing­ton for Over the Edge. He’s run through down­town Ne­wark, across the Univer­sity of Delaware’s cam­pus and along the James F. Hall Trail for the Rein­deer Run and Romp.

Through all of that – and more – Hank said that Jon ex­em­pli­fies the goals of Spe­cial Olympics. And he does so fear­lessly.

“He does fo­cus on these goals. He doesn’t know these goals here; he couldn’t tell you what they are. He just knows them here,” he said, pat­ting his ch­est.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Jon Stok­losa is in­ducted into the Spe­cial Olympics Hall of Fame dur­ing Night of He­roes on Oct. 10.

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