What Miss America Emma Broyles Has Learned From Working With The Special Olympics – Exclusive

Health Digest sat down with Emma Broyles, Miss America 2022, and discussed her social campaign, Building Community through the Special Olympics, and picked her brain about all of the lessons she has learned as an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Broyles' older brother, Brendan, is a Special Olympics athlete who has Down syndrome. Broyles explained that she and her siblings were enrolled in sports as kids. "Ben [my younger brother] and I — we'd be trucking along, moving up the levels. ... As we got older Brendan wasn't able to keep up with the rest of the kids. And I think that was really frustrating for him. And it was probably really frustrating for my mom too, to see Brendan struggling like that."

But with perseverance and determination, Brendan's abilities grew. The Special Olympics provided him an outlet for his athletic abilities and allowed him to remain active, while also being a part of a thriving community. "It takes a lot of patience," Broyles said. "But that's something that I think we could all use in our everyday lives. I feel like it's a very valuable skill, especially in this day and age."

Building connections can lead to a better sense of empathy and understanding

The Special Olympics were founded on the bedrock notion that sports can be a bridge for creating inclusive communities. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics, saw how sports could bring people together and foster relationships between those with and without intellectual disabilities.

Emma Broyles said that when she visits high schools, she often sees inclusive games taking place. She said, "Students who have never interacted with somebody who has an intellectual disability ... [will] inadvertently be building these connections." She continued, saying, "I think that sports create this perfect environment where these relationships are fostered." This is similar to the Special Olympics' framework.

Beyond fostering community, working with the Special Olympics has taught Broyles about patience and persistence. After watching the athletes confront and conquer their own obstacles and hurdles, she has found inspiration in her own life. She explained that the motivation she sees inspires her. "It's so awesome," she told Health Digest.