Special Olympics

RIVERSIDE: Special Olympics coach wins honors

Keith Nelson coaches multiple sports for the Special Olympics of Southern California and was their volunteer of the year.

Born in Miles, Ill., he and his family moved to Fullerton when he was in the fifth grade and he grew up in Southern California.

He graduated with a bachelors degree in computer science from UC Irvine in 1980. He received a masters from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate from California Institute of Technology. He received all degrees in computer science.

Nelson and his wife Debbie have been married for 35 years and have four children, Kassandra, 31, Ryan, 30, Tyler, 22, and Shelbie, 11.

His son Ryan is in the Special Olympics, participates on the floor hockey team and went to South Korea.

In August, the Special Olympics of Southern California (SOSC) honored Nelson with the Michael W. Harahan Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award for the Riverside area.

The award honors volunteers such as Nelson for accomplishments in the SOSC and for the dedication and hard work to the athletes to help them succeed.

We have a tremendous group of athletes, Nelson said. I think that what we have done is show that individuals with special needs do not have the stereotypical limitations that most people think they have.

Oscar Nero and Tyler Nelson, Nelsons son, help condition the athletes, and John Webber is the area director of the Special Olympics of Southern California for the Riverside area.

Nelson coaches basketball, softball, track and field and floor hockey. The floor hockey team for Team USA was in South Korea for the 2013 Special Olympics Winter World Games and took the silver medal.

We found out the other counties play floor hockey like we play basketball, said Nelson. They athletes had a great time. We got to visit the Korean International School; we got to visit the military base there. They got to sign a lot of autographs and there were many celebrities there. It was really quite a trip.

Many of the athletes that play sports in the SOSC are different ages and work in the work program of the Ability Counts facility in Riverside.

The ones that participate in Special Olympics excel in the work program and are becoming more independent in their personal and social lives, said Nelson. Some people think that its too difficult for special needs athletes, but then after they see them excel and athletes losing weight and getting in shape and becoming much more proficient, they begin to understand that they can accomplish anything they want to.

Nelson has nothing but good things to say about the athletes he coaches and the programs that help them.

We are really happy with our exercise program; we have athletes that have lost almost 70 pounds; they are getting off medication, they are improving their self-esteem, said Nelson. Its really something great to participate in and we encourage anyone to come and join us.