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Special Olympics athlete bowls for bocce gold

Portland teen vies in games that foster fun, build responsibility


by: COURTESY OF GREG ASSAD - Dominic Flesey-Assad, a 16-year-old Grant High student, has overcome serious pre-birth head injuries to become an active participant in Special Olympics Oregon. Hell compete with others this weekend in the State Summer Games at Newberg High.Dominic Flesey-Assad was born on May 6, 1998. It was not your ordinary happy birthday.

But if you believe in miracles, one took place that day.

Seana Flesey-Sorensen was 36 weeks pregnant when her then-husband, Greg Assad, and their daughter, Jazmyne, were driving their Datsun along North Lombard Street. Their car was rear-ended. It spun out, crashing into a telephone pole. Three passengers were relatively unscathed. But the fourth passenger, the one inside Flesey-Sorensen’s womb, was in serious trouble.

The impact rattled the fetus in Flesey-Sorensen’s womb, and he hit his head against her spinal cord. The family rushed to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section.

The baby was considered dead on arrival.

Somehow, though, after the 20 longest minutes of his parents’ life, Dominic took his first breath.

“Emanuel brought him back to life,” Greg Assad says.

The prognosis for little Dominic was not good, though. Doctors said he would never walk.

Then another miracle happened. Dominic did walk. And while the traumatic head injury affected his motor skills and his speech, he now plays bocce and competes in Special

Olympics.

“They said he wasn’t going to walk,” Greg Assad says. “For him to be walking, running, talking, doing his thing, it’s really beautiful. If you ever

met him, you’d say, ‘This kid is awesome.’

“He has a memory like an elephant. He’ll remember things that I don’t remember.”

This will be Dominic’s fourth year competing in the Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games, which take place Saturday and Sunday at Newberg High.

Dominic, who attends Grant High, had been bowling for several years before he started playing bocce and found out how much he loved it.

“He’s been bowling for quite a few years,” Assad says. “Bocce was new to us, but I related bocce to bowling with him and ever since we started playing, it’s been a blast.”

Assad says his son has a competitive side to him, but more than anything, vying in the Special Olympics is about fun, building relationships and learning responsibility.

“He has a competitive side to him, but bottom line, it’s all about having fun and being around the athletes and seeing old faces,” Assad says. “But you’re also going for the gold, trying to get a medal, and it’s important to them to get those medals because they’ve been competing for such a long time. It teaches them about responsibility, teamwork, being on time, dress codes. It really goes a long way.”

by: COURTESY OF GREG ASSAD - Dominic Flesey-Assad (left) celebrates a medal-winning performance in Special Olympics competition with his father, Greg Assad.Greg Assad has gotten involved in Special Olympics as well. He does the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics, he coaches and is a unified partner who competes with Special Olympics athletes.

Assad originally intended to compete with his son, but the organization found a partner Dominic’s age and Assad began competing with an athlete he met while Dominic was bowling.

“My intention was to compete with Dominic as a father-son,” Assad says. “But then they found unified partners that were more his age, and he paired up with them. It’s worked out great. It’s always a good time.”

Away from bocce, Dominic is very much a normal teenager.

“He’s a people person and likes to be social,” Assad says. “He’s 16, and he’s a teenage boy. He really tries to get involved in school. He’s in choir. He’s pretty much on his own, and he does mostly everything on his own. This summer, for the most part, he’s just sitting around at home and watching TV and playing video games. We’re big Yankee fans, so he keeps up on his baseball. But he’s always needing a little extra help.”

A little extra help, yes. Another miracle? Nah. Dominic Flesey-Assad has had plenty of those.

“He’s a miracle baby,” Assad says. “He’s surrounded by angels every day.”