The Amazing Team Bell

Jim Alabiso

Megan Bell sinks her toes into the warm sand and checks the waves. She likes them small, but she’s done some big ones. Megan stretches, loosens up her muscles, excited and comfortable in this place.

“Amazing,” says Megan when she talks about how it feels to surf. “It gives me confidence. I can be myself.”

Megan and her mother, Susan Bell talk openly about her disability. “We knew she was going to have Down’s Syndrome. The doctor recommended we have an abortion. For us, that was not an option. We were prepared for the worst and got the best.”

Susan and Megan have been through some tough times together. “When I was nine years old my father died. We were sad, but we have faith.”

Megan loves the water, starting with swimming and paddle boarding through Special Olympics - Duval County with the help of director Michelle Jacobs. Megan had to ride on her belly because she weighed two hundred pounds. Megan needed to lose the weight to stand up on the board. “I work out, we only eat out once a week and eat only half of it. No more cookies, no more chips,” Megan explains. Losing weight is challenging for people with Down’s. It took two years but today she is seventy-five pounds lighter. “I had to give my old clothes away. Gave them to Goodwill,” says Megan.

Now Megan is an accomplished surfer. In 2015, she was selected to be the first Special Olympic athlete to join the Ron Jon Surf Team. Ron Jon Surf Shop sponsors surf competitions around the world and is an avid supporter of Special Olympics. "We are thrilled to have Megan Bell join our Ron Jon Surf Team," said Debbie Harvey, president. "Megan has embraced the surf culture and exemplifies all of the qualities that make this sport great.”

Megan is a busy woman, surfing, paddle boarding and swimming while working at Publix and starting a new job at JAX Chamber.

“I can do anything,” says Megan. “I’m ready to be independent.” At twenty-five Megan is preparing to move out on her own to ARC Village, “to have my own place, be with my friends.” I asked Susan what that means to her as a mom.

“My head knows it’s the right thing, my heart is having a difficult time with it. I have prepared her for this, she’s worked really hard to be independent. She deserves this opportunity.”

Susan says, “Megan has become an inspiration to other people.”

“I like to help the kids at school and help nanny in her wheelchair. I feel peace,” Megan explains.

“She has taught her nieces and nephews how to treat people. They see how much love she gives to everyone and they treat people the same way,” says Susan. “I try to provide her with every opportunity I can. I want to her to have as much success in life as she can. I enjoy watching her and being with her. She has been blessed with a lot of doors opening. So when these doors open we want to go through them and experience them.” explains Susan, eyes watering.

“Mom, we’ll start to cry,” says Megan.

If you could tell the world anything what would you say?

“That you can do more sports, never give up, and I love my mom.”

#LiftEveryVoiceJax

A collaboration of First Coast Magazine, Special Olympics – Duval County, LEAP Collaborative and The Bells

 

 

© 2015, 2016, 2017 by LEAP Collaborative & Jim Alabiso