SPECIAL OLYMPICS: Minn. athlete heads to national games - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

SPECIAL OLYMPICS: Minn. athlete heads to national games

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Dave Persons got his start in Special Olympics at age 38 -- and while that's an unusual time to get involved in competitions, the decision is now taking him to compete on the national level.

He has multiple medals and skills, and he'll show off a few when he travels to New Jersey for the Special Olympics USA National Championship in a few weeks.

"It should be a fun experience," he said. "Whether I finish in first or fifth, I'll give it my best."

Fox  News caught up with him while he was practicing bowling in Eden Prairie.

"My highest score was 181," he recalled. "I always try to pick up the spares."

A decade ago, bowling was just a hobby. In fact, Persons didn't suspect that the sport would end up transforming his life until he got an encouraging nudge from his sister, Nancy.

"I said, 'Dave, I really think you'd like this. You really like to bowl,'" she recalled.

A whole new world opened up to him after he gave it a try, and the now-48-year-old has medals marking his success.

"It's been a rewarding experience," he said. "I have my share of gold medals, silver medals."

Persons also plays bocce and golf, and is an ambassador for Special Olympics Minnesota. He is also a public speaker.

"As my mom says, we've created a monster because now, when he gets a hold of a microphone, he does such a great job," Nancy Persons said.

Yet, his late father, Jim Persons, wasn't sure the Special Olympics was a good fit at first.

"He had a different view of Special Olympics," Dave Persons explained. "He thought it was just people with Down Syndrome."

Regardless, Dave Persons says his father will be at the forefront of his mind while he competes.

"If I won the male athlete award, I would dedicate it to my dad, who would be looking down from heaven with tears -- tears of sadness and happiness," Dave Persons said. "Sad that he couldn't be here but happy that I've accomplished so many things."

Along with the wonderful work Dave Persons does with the Special Olympics, he also volunteers with the Highland Friendship Club -- a group that helps teens and young adults with disabilities.

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