Safeara Toole isnâ€™t just the average run-of-the-mill athlete. She is a Special Olympian, one who was hand-picked for a special honor.
Toole is one of only five Special Olympians selected from the entire state to participate in the annual â€œDream Ride Experience,â€ set to take place in Farmington, Connecticut. She was selected after being deemed an â€œinspirational leaderâ€ in the Special Olympics for the Northwest Florida region. Toole and her coach will travel to the event next month in an all expenses paid trip.
Toole has been a Special Olympics athlete for around six years, bringing home ribbons in basketball, bicycling, and track. She is known for cheering on her teammates and other athletes – and, in one instance, giving up a win to help her teammate.
Her mother, Kera Toole, says that act of kindness simply underscores her daughterâ€™s selfless personality.
â€œAt one meet in particular, Safeara was almost to the finish line to take first place when she looked back and saw her teammate falling behind,â€ said Kera. â€œShe fell back in order to help her friend cross the finish line, together. She is always thinking of others and wants to see everyone succeed.â€
Safeara attends WAVE School in Chipley, where she will start ninth grade in August. The family calls this a â€œonce in a lifetime tripâ€ for the 14-year-old, who says she is excited to attend.
â€œI canâ€™t wait,â€ she said. â€œIt is going to be so much fun. I am scared to fly but other than that, I am so excited!â€
The Dream Ride Experience is a three day event that organizers say â€œcelebrates the achievements of our Dream Riders, the true heart and soul of our event.â€
â€œOur Dream Riders are Special Olympics athletes and individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities from over 25 different states and three countries,â€ states the Dreamride.org website. â€œThe experience honors these men, women, and children living with intellectual disabilities in our communities.â€
The event will feature the â€œDream Cruiseâ€ during which Safeara and other Dream Riders will choose the classic or exotic car of their dreams to take a 12-mile-long cruise in, complete with a police escort. Toole has selected a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T because she says itâ€™s just like the one Vin Diesel drove in the Fast and Furious movie franchise.
While Toole and her coachâ€™s expenses are covered, her parents fear they will not be able to attend with her due to the high costs associated with it. One ticket to the event is $500, not including airfare or accommodations. The Tooles are working to raise money to cover the estimated $3,500 total cost so they can share the experience with their daughter.
Those wanting to help can send donations to: Cash App: $Keratoole, PayPal: @keratoole, Venmo: @Kera-Toole or on Facebook: Kera Joel Toole.