Special Olympian husband and wife team to compete in nationals
By Elizabeth Bolin
Hub City Times intern
MARSHFIELD – Marshfield has a husband and wife team of Special Olympians who will be heading to national competition this August.
Josh and Christina Follen will compete in the 2019 Special Olympics Nationals Tournament as a part of the Wisconsin Team Force in August.
The Special Olympics is a program where people with a physical or cognitive disability can compete in different sports at different strengths and levels.
“My husband Randy is the agency manager for the Marshfield area Special Olympics,” shared Sharon Follen, mother of Josh Follen. “We offer bowling, football, basketball, track, swimming, powerlifting, softball, and bocce ball.”
Josh and Christina met through the Special Olympics and were married in October 2018. Both Josh and Christina have cognitive disabilities, which allow them to qualify for the program.
“We have people with autism, Down syndrome, hearing or speaking disabilities, you name it,” Sharon explained.
Josh has been involved for about 14 years and Randy has been agency manager for six.
“It really feels like my husband and I are more or less the parents of the 80 some athletes involved in this organization,” Sharon added.
Christina and Josh were selected to play on the Wisconsin Team Force softball team with other athletes from all over Wisconsin. They will represent the state at the Special Olympics National Tournament. Josh went to nationals in 2017 but this is Christina’s first time. Christina is also the only female on the softball team.
Pauline Ho is the Wisconsin coach and the tournament is Aug.15-20 in Tennessee. The tournament lasts three days and consists of teams from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as different levels of ability.
“The cool part is that after they are done playing, they all become friends on Facebook,” said Follen. “It’s not about winning or losing, but the opportunity to be able to travel and participate.”
Every member of the Wisconsin Team Force must raise some money to cover transportation, meals, hotel stays, uniforms, and other expenses. The team is selling t-shirts and any donation is welcome. The fundraising is due by July 15.
Josh and Christina have been going door-to-door, promoting their trip.
“It’s a blessing because we never thought that Josh would be able to play a sport. It’s truly amazing to see the camaraderie that comes from being a part of the team,” said Follen. “I cheer for all the kids. Winning doesn’t matter it matters watching all of these kids coming together to make a team.”
Donations may be made in the name of Special Olympics and sent to Randy or Sharon Follen, 1412 S. Felker Ave., Marshfield, WI, 54449.
Josh and Christina will join fellow local Special Olympian Michael Lindhorst at nationals in August.