Michigan Special Olympian to be honored at ESPY Awards

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jul 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-12 23:58:08-04

India walker has watched her son smile through all of life’s challenges, and he’s had more than most of us.


"He’s cognitively impaired so a lot of things, he learn a different way and a different angle. So it was hard for him growing up because he wasn’t on the same level as people so they used to just make fun of him," explains Walker.


Dalvin Keller is an athlete at his core. He’s a Special Olympics World Games gold medalist, but becoming the confident and capable competitor he is today wasn't an easy process.


"You got frustrated because I couldn’t play because everybody treat you different, but as I got older and went to a different school, stuff started changing," says Keller.


"For me as a mom, when your kid comes home crying because people are making fun of him because he can’t do the things they can do…it hurt a lot," says Walker.


In 2014, Keller started school at the Elmer A Knopf Learning Center for kids and young adults with cognitive impairment. 


"When he came to this school he was excited, he was determined, he was full of hope," says Walker.



It’s where he met his volleyball coach Sheila Gafney. "He’s an extremely hard worker. He gives 100%. 110%," she says.


Gaffney was coaching the volleyball team in 2015 when they won a gold medal at the World Games in Los Angeles.


"They turned around and here I am running at them jumping in their arms. It was just amazing and they were so excited," Gafney remembers.


Now Keller and his mom are headed back to L.A. to be part of the ESPY Awards. Keller is one of a handful athletes being honored along with Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver.


"I’m jjust excited, I’m excited for him. I’m proud that he gets to represent Michigan and especially Flint. With all the negative attention we have, now we have something positive coming out," says Walker.


“It’s once in a lifetime for all of us, probbaly once in a lifetime for this school so he’s just gotta go all the way with it, and enjoy every second," says Gafney.


For Keller, competing with Special Olympics has been life-changing.


He says "The biggest impact is I grew from being a person that was scared…do I could do anything now."