William Corsi, a former Armwood High School student who lives in Thonotosassa, began participating in Special Olympics 18 years ago. Last month, he was chosen to be one of only 10 athletes from all over the world, and the only one from Florida, to run the “Flame of Hope” torch -- which is lit in Athens, Greece -- for the Law Enforcement Torch Run® Final Leg into the stadium during opening ceremonies of the World Games in Los Angeles. The Final Leg traveled the breadth and length of California, bringing the Flame of Hope into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as part of the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. William, 32, was the first Special Olympics athlete in Florida to be chosen for this very special honor, and he made over 19 speeches to groups in various cities during the Torch Run event. The run took Corsi and his fellow torch-bearers all over California before finishing July 25 in Los Angeles at the Memorial Coliseum
It is a long road that William has traveled since 1986, when he, along with his brothers Matthew and Stephen, were adopted by Candice and Michael Corsi. Both William and Stephen have intellectual disabilities as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome, and the Corsis were told William would never surpass ninth grade. William proved the experts wrong when he graduated from Armwood High School in 2001. According to Sandra Denham, ESE teacher at Plant City HS and William’s Special Olympics coach for over 15 years, “Over the years, I have watched William grow physically, mentally, and socially as a result of his involvement in Special Olympics and the Athlete Leadership Program in Hillsborough County, and he was the first person I thought about when the announcement was made that they needed 10 athletes for the Torch Run.” Although Mrs. Denham thought they were looking for 10 Florida athletes, it was no surprise to her when William was chosen to represent the entire world. “William met all the criteria they were looking for – he is fit and an excellent athlete; a phenomenal public speaker, and a perfect global messenger!”
Even more exciting to William himself was when, in 2007, he was named Special Olympics Florida Athlete of the Year, having been selected from over 15,000 athletes in the state. And this year, he was recognized as the Hillsborough County Inspirational Athlete of the year. William is a young man who has come a long, long way since his days as a student in Hillsborough County Public Schools, but he has made his family, his friends, and his long-time admirers extremely proud with his strength, tenacity, and his advocacy for Special Olympics. Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities: it currently serves more than 4.4 million persons with intellectual disabilities in more than 170 countries.
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