Line with text

Basketball Player

On the Rebound:
How Special Olympics Helped Develop an Inspiring Leader


Paul Brooks was entering the seventh grade when he and his family moved from their home in Seattle to Las Vegas. A teen on the autism spectrum, Paul struggled to build friendships in middle school and faced bullying from classmates. He isolated himself from family and spent most of his nights in his room playing video games.

“I was shy, I didn't interact, I didn't hug a lot of people. I felt like a shell, a hollow version of me,” Paul says.

As Paul grew up, one way he bonded with his parents and siblings was through sports — specifically basketball. When Paul turned 14, he and his family discovered Special Olympics Nevada. Building community through athletics was a natural fit for the Brookses to explore.


Graphic with quote

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“When I signed up for Special Olympics, everything changed,” says Paul.

From connecting with staff members and coaches to making strong bonds with teammates, Paul’s outlook on life dramatically shifted. Looking up to athletes and witnessing their successes, Paul was surrounded by role models within the disabled community. This newfound support system gave him hope for his own future.

“Being around people like me and seeing what they can do, I realized I actually have a chance in this world,” says Paul.

“Our mission isn't just sports. Now we train athletes to be health messengers. Through our school program, athletes work to create inclusion on campuses. The goal is to reduce bullying and open up athletic and academic opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities,” says Harry Mong, Special Olympics Senior Director of Program and Partnerships. “We want to create an opportunity where athletes not only showcase their talents on a playing field or court, but as a person.” Harry oversees the sports, schools, health and athlete leadership programs.

Taking full advantage of the programs and activities offered through Special Olympics Nevada, Paul has made the most of every opportunity. Now 26, he is an athlete leader, spreading awareness of the organization throughout Las Vegas; he also sits on the Special Olympics athlete leadership council, discussing ideas for the organization’s future.

David Navarro, Enterprise Bank & Trust’s Nevada Regional President, sits on the organization’s board, assisting with making strategic financial decisions and with finding long-term revenue growth opportunities.

Graphic with text

“As a board member, I get the opportunity to propel Special Olympics forward. I’m so grateful that I can serve the organization on a financial level to help guide them towards what’s next,” says David.

Enterprise sponsors the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Polar Plunge, two of the organization’s largest fundraising events.

Since joining Special Olympics over a decade ago, Paul has competed in a variety of sports, including flag football, track and field, golf, bowling and his longtime favorite: basketball.

“Basketball to me is like life. It's very fast. It's very emotional. A lot of assisting, passing and rebounding. Rebounding has taught me to never give up on the play. Even if things don’t go right the first time, you can still try again, and I apply that to my own life,” says Paul.

Paul Brooks and his mother, Celeste, celebrate during an exciting Special Olympics basketball tournament.


Line with text

two women hugging

Child with glasses on

two women talking

three business men

woman working

children actors in theater

woman smiling

basketball player