Maine Athletes Shine at Special Olympics
WESTBOROUGH, MA – The mission of USTA New England’s charitable arm, the New England Tennis & Education Foundation (NETEF), is to create life-changing opportunities through tennis, education and wellness. Back in June, the Foundation helped two athletes from Maine, and their coach, fund a dream trip to compete at the Special Olympics USA Games at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, FL.
Athletes Justin Beliveau and Cody Herard, along with Cody’s dad and the duo’s coach for the games, Paul Herard, made the journey to Florida with an army of support behind them.
“Cody and Justin were the perfect pair to represent Special Olympics Maine in tennis at the Special Olympics USA Games this summer. These two young men were awesome and inspiring, and we are so proud of their sportsmanship, courage and determination,” said Lisa Bird, Public Relations Director for Special Olympics Maine.
The NETEF gave the athletes a grant of $1,000 ahead of the event to support their travels. In addition, the foundation secured an anonymous donor who outfitted the team with high-quality tennis racquets, shoes, hats, sweatbands and socks.
Justin and Cody joined 5,500 other athletes and coaches from all 50 states at the USA Games from June 5-12 in front of more than 125,00 spectators. They finished with four medals – a team Gold in doubles, a Gold for Justin in singles and a Silver for Cody in singles.
“The support goes a long way. Both were very appreciative of the gear that was donated,” said Ian Frank, Director of Unified Champion Schools for Special Olympics Maine. “Cody and Justin competed their hearts out. This experience was a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these two young men, and both will be talking about it for years to come.”
Justin (34), of Lewiston, has been involved with Special Olympics since he was in eighth grade. He loves to stay active enjoys a variety of sports, including long distance running.
In 2014, he competed at his first USA Games in New Jersey in track and field, and in 2019, he swam at World Games in Abu Dhabi. This year was his first time competing in a tennis event on a national or international stage and the first time he’s played doubles.
“I have been so lucky (to compete in these events). I love being active and got to meet Cody this year,” Justin said. “I loved the challenge of tennis because every match makes me focus differently because of the players I played against. I was so proud of the way Cody and I ended up connecting. We both have different abilities and we learned to support each other to make a winning team.”
For Cody, this was his first experience at the USA games. The 27-year-old from Waterville relished the opportunity of having his new friend Justin, whom he met just months before the event, and his father by his side.
“It’s fun, I like that we spent time together,” he said of being coached by his father, Paul. When asked what the most enjoyable part of the event was, he responded, “getting it done together (with Justin).”
“I was excited and nervous and played my best. I wish I could have won the gold in singles, but I tried my best and was brave in the attempt,” Cody added.
Both Justin and Cody trained with volunteers from the Colby College Women’s Tennis Team leading up to the event, along with coaching from Paul and others.
“I really enjoyed coaching the boys. The event itself was very enjoyable for Justin, as he was able to spend time with friends he’s competed with over the years. Cody made many friendships and had athletes from different states wanting to spend time with him because of his upbeat, positive attitude, even in the face of some stressful moments,” Herard said.
And while both went into the event with different experience levels, each made the most of their memorable week.
“Justin, as the seasoned athlete who had competed at these higher levels before, brought a great deal of determination. Cody, a fantastic tennis player, brought a fun level of excitement as he ventured toward the unknown. Justin was also excited to show his teammate just how amazing it is to be able to compete at a National Games,” Bird said. “The games are something you truly cannot explain to anyone. You have to experience them to really have the full idea of how incredible they are.”
To learn more about Special Olympics Maine, click here.
- Justin (left) and Cody (right) with their coach, Paul, at the Special Olympics.
- Cody with his dad and coach, Paul Herard.
- Cody came away with a Gold and Silver Medal at the games.
To learn more about the New England Tennis & Education Foundation, visit their website.