McCrabb: Mother of Special Olympian says son has been ‘a blessing to my family’

Adam Gibbemeyer to compete this week in the 2022 USA Games in Florida.

Phyllis Gibbemeyer remembers the way she felt nearly 40 years ago when her son, Adam, was born and she later learned he had Down syndrome.

“Very, very sad,” she said.

Then, she quickly added: “That was so foolish. Adam knows he has Down syndrome. He takes it totally in stride. That’s who he is. We wouldn’t change him. He’s a blessing to my family.”

That blessing extends to Paul and Phyllis Gibbemeyer and their two younger sons, Jake, 34, and Eric, 32, and two grandsons.

On Wednesday night, as Gibbemeyer, 39, a 2002 Lakota West High School graduate, practiced bocce at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle Fields complex in Fairfield for this week’s 2022 USA Special Olympics Games in Orlando, Fla., he was encouraged by everyone at the complex.

Especially his mother, his coach: “That’s much better,” she said after her son rolled a ball near the target. “Keep smiling. That’s what I like to see.”

He certainly has plenty of reasons to smile.

Gibbemeyer and his bocce partner, Bobby Zeisler, 44, won a gold medal at the 2019 Special Olympics summer games in Columbus. Since Ohio was allowed to take four bocce players to the USA Games that are held every four years, all the names of the state gold medalists were placed in a hat and four names were drawn.

One of them was Gibbemeyer, the only Butler County athlete competing this year in the USA Games.

Gibbemeyer, who has been a Butler County Special Olympics athlete for 30 years in various sports, will compete this week as an individual, in doubles and part of a two-men, two-women team.

“Yes,” he said with a smile when asked if he was excited about traveling to Florida.

On Wednesday, Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller read a certificate of recognition honoring Gibbemeyer for qualifying for the USA Games. He said all of Butler County was proud and he encouraged Gibbemeyer to have fun and meet new friends.

“Enjoy the experience,” Moeller told him.

That’s not always easy for Gibbemeyer due to his competitiveness, his mother said. He gets “hard on himself” when he doesn’t perform to his expectations, she said.

“We couldn’t be more proud,” she said of her son who works as a courtesy clerk at Kroger.

This week he hopes to go from bagging groceries to winning gold medals.

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