In 1996 Dustin joined Special Olympics Southern California and forged a new set of family bonds. “Special Olympic athletes are like my brothers and sisters and the staff and volunteers are like my parents and they guide me along the way in my life.”
In 2004, Dustin’s life was more than guided by Special Olympics, it was saved. During a visit to the Healthy Athletes Village for a dental screening, a volunteer dentist told him that the condition of his teeth was quite bad and that he would need to be examined by a local dentist. It was during that next visit that the doctor gave him some scary news; he had gum cancer. Though the treatment procedure was difficult and painful, his cancer was caught early enough to be treated and cured thanks to the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program and the volunteer dentist that spotted the issue.
Having been given a second chance, Dustin relishes every opportunity to reach people and to share his own story of success over adversity as a way to inspire others to do the same. Special Olympics has helped empower him to take control of his own life and to break the negative cycle that defined his early life. He continues to give back as a coach for young athletes in basic sports skills and as the assistant basketball coach for the Lakewood Special Olympics program in Southern California. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Southern California, as well as LA2015, the 2015 World Games Organizing Committee, and a member of the World Games staff as a Games Associate and Uniform Coordinator.
Dustin has now been active in Special Olympics for more than 18 years, rising into the ranks of athlete leadership as a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger from 2007 to 2010. That once insecure, shy kid is now a dynamic, articulate public speaker and advocate who has stood alongside the likes of Yao Ming at the World Games in Shanghai and President Barack Obama at the White House.
“I was bullied every day of my life. There were times it was so bad that I cried myself to sleep. But now, with the help of Special Olympics, I can stand up to those bullies and show them my abilities and not my dis-abilities. I can stand up for the athletes that don’t have a voice and can’t stand up for themselves.”