ESPN

A Family Affair

Dustin and Danielle Oehlman met at a Special Olympics practice nearly 20 years ago. Now, with their children cheering them on, they're headed to the USA Games (July 1-6) in Seattle.

For Dustin and Danielle Oehlman, the Special Olympics are more than a chance to play their favorite sports. It's one of the ways they connect as a family. The couple, who met as teenagers almost 20 years ago through the Special Olympics, have recruited their two boys, Zander, 11, and Gavet, 9, to join in as well. The Valparaiso, Indiana, family even raced together in a 4x100 meter relay in 2017.

Many people involved with the Special Olympics regard the organization as a family -- and the Oehlmans are a literal representation of that. A family united by inclusion.

Take a peek into their everyday life as they get ready to take the big stage at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle (July 1-6).

Danielle, left, Dustin, right, Zander, in purple, and Gavet have been living with Danielle's parents, Sherry and Sam Rebich, for almost three years. The couple says the living arrangement benefits everyone for economic reasons.

Today the family is joining Dustin on one of his side jobs. "I try to get [the boys] outside doing things with the family, away from television and screens," says Danielle.

Dustin, Danielle and their Invincability teammates will represent Indiana in the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle. The team is Unified, which means there are players with and without intellectual disabilities. Each of the Oehlmans has an intellectual disability.

"I'm always afraid to hit the ball and that it's not going to go that far," says Danielle, who has been playing softball since she was a child.

Danielle and Dustin go way back even though they attended different high schools. They got married six years after Danielle graduated.

Dustin works construction, a trade he's been involved with since middle school. For many years, he and his father worked together in their own construction company.

There's not enough time in the day for Dustin's to-do list.

Just another day at work: Dustin and his co-worker have the challenge of installing a washer and dryer into a tight corner.

Danielle has been a troop leader in the Boy Scouts of America, where Gavet is a Webelos Scout, for the past four years.

When Danielle, left, was a child, she contracted a flu that led to encephalitis of the brain. It was nearly fatal and caused brain damage. Danielle's twin sister participates in the Special Olympics as a Unified partner.

Gavet, center, has emotional issues related to his intellectual disability that sometimes come out in challenging or stressful situations. Here Danielle and Gavet work together to assemble a wooden tool box during a day camp activity.

Danielle is a little out of her comfort zone when it comes to disc golf because it's a new sport to her. But Gavet, who's showing her how it's done, and Zander are right at home.

With their family trip to Seattle just days away, the Oehlman family gathers in their living room for a quiet moment as the children read books before bedtime. Because of the Oehlman family's challenges related to reading and writing, this ritual is a very important part of the night for them. Often, the boys will read books back and forth to each other.

More Stories