50 for 50th Spotlight: Domenic Fraboni

When former football student-athlete Domenic Fraboni was a freshman at Concordia College (Moorhead, MN), he attended his first Special Olympics event — a pancake breakfast. He was “hooked at pancake” and his love for and involvement with Special Olympics continued beyond breakfast, spanning his four years at Concordia, his time as a Division III National SAAC member, and even as he completed his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in Rochester, MN.

In fact, Fraboni’s passion for Special Olympics that he developed while a Division III student-athlete infected his graduate school classmates. He recruited them to help coach Special Olympics basketball teams and create a Unified Sports full-court basketball team. Further, Fraboni has worked American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) to help coordinate student led events with Special Olympics at some of the major APTA conferences around the country, including the upcoming 2018 National Student Conclave in Rhode Island.

Fraboni, who graduates with his doctorate next week and will start work as a physical therapist with a focus on health and wellness promotion and the creation of healthy lifestyle behaviors, recognizes that his experiences with Special Olympics have had a significant impact on his personal and professional development. “With physical therapy, I have realized that being able to relate to your patient and educate them where they are at is the most powerful tool. With Special Olympics, I have been able to work with a team that spans the intellectual and physical spectrums. I have had to find ways to coach and educate all these athletes where they are at. I now feel much more capable in this area both in the patient room and out in the real world.”

While Fraboni struggles to pick a favorite Special Olympic memory from the last six years, he said his Unified Flag Football team — which did not win a game all season — taught him about “the true joy of sport and celebrating everyone’s ability.” Fraboni also noted that this experience helped him calm his normal overly-competitive, student-athlete perspective. “I had never had so much fun on a team while losing every single one of the games we played.”

While it all started with a pancake breakfast, Fraboni knows he will carry the lessons he learned from Special Olympics with him throughout his life and his career. “Working with these Special Olympic athletes over the years has helped me realize that what we do on this world is all about the amazing connection we can make with people.”

[In honor of the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics and in celebration of the Division III partnership, Division III and Special Olympics have joined forces to present 50 profiles honoring the unified work of the NCAA, Division III and Special Olympics. Use the hashtag #d3SO50for50th for more profiles and on any Division III/Special Olympics activities.]