Matthew Champagne has always loved fishing, an activity he took up naturally when he was 3 years old. It was Special Olympics that helped teach him how to combine competition with his love for angling.
A Special Olympics competitor for 10 years, Champagne felt he was ready to compete when he learned Live Oak High had a fishing team.
It took off from there.
During his senior season, Champagne helped Live Oak compete in seven tournaments. In three of the tournaments, he has caught fish big enough to meet weight requirements.
Champagne is the Boys Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.
“I think participating in the Special Olympics and being able to excel in some areas has given him the confidence to branch out and try things like the fishing team,” said Champagne’s mother, Rita. “Those are with his typical peers, so to me, there’s a connection there.”
Champagne’s Special Olympics career began with competition in bowling, track and field and swimming, his favorite event. He has competed at state-level events in the past but has stuck to area track and field meets since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Champagne has had plenty of activities to keep him busy.
He has been a four-year member of the REACH club (Respect Everyone and Create Club). He is also part of the sports medicine curriculum.
“Special Olympics has helped Matt develop self-confidence,” Rita Champagne said. “The inclusiveness of our school and community has allowed Matthew to thrive.”
Rita Champagne said her son was nervous after learning he had been selected as the boys Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. After talking with him more, she described her son’s feelings in detail.
“To paraphrase what he said, it makes him feel like an important part of a team — like he’s just one of the guys, doing the things he loves to do.”