VENICE — Venice resident and long-time Goodwill employee Doug Johnson will be representing Team Florida at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in June.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Johnson said about the opportunity. Johnson, who stays active with Special Olympics through various sports, will be competing in two equestrian events, the trail course, and equitation, at the national games in Orlando.
In April, he won a gold medal for each of those events at the Special Olympics Florida Games.
While this will be his first national event, Johnson is not new to Special Olympics.
Before moving to Venice in 2001 with his mother Linda Matteson, the 54-year-old began participating in Special Olympics when he was 8 and living in New York.
Over the years, Johnson has competed in poly hockey, cross-country skiing, track and field, swimming, and equestrian.
“He participates in a lot of events,” said Dana Knuuti, the mission employment program manager for Goodwill Manasota.
Apart from his accomplishments in equestrian, Johnson recently earned second for the 400-meter run and fourth in the shot put during a state track and field meet.
Outside of being active in sports, Johnson joined the Goodwill Manasota team in 2003 and is part of the Supported JobsPlus program.
He started in the Englewood store before moving to the Rialto Goodwill in Venice. “I have had an opportunity to do different things,” Johnson said about his work. He originally began as a clothing hanger and has held many other positions before his current job as a fitting room attendant.
“It is very exciting to see him accomplish what he has accomplished,” Matteson said.
Matteson said she couldn’t say enough about her son, who is legally blind and has short-term memory loss from a tumor when he was younger.
“Seeing him go off to the events is very exciting,” she said.With the two gold medals under his belt before the national games, Johnson is excited for the big event, especially since he was one of the first participants selected for the Florida equestrian team.
“I think it’ll be fun,” Johnson said. “It’s the first time I have ever gone to something that big.”
Special Olympics athletes from across the country will be in Orlando for the games, which begins with the opening ceremony on June 5 and goes through June 12.
Johnson said it will be nice to meet the many athletes and mentioned he might run into some friends from his time with the Special Olympics in New York.
The opening ceremony and Special Olympics Games will be televised on ABC. The equestrian events will take place between June 6-10. “Go team Florida,” Johnson said while mentioning his hopes to go to the international games one day.