Matt Williams, 19, is a former Times carrier, a graduate of Walnut Grove Secondary, and a prep cook at Montana’s.
Warren Buffett, 80, is an investor from Omaha, Nebraska, a self-made billionaire, and he likes Dairy Queen because he owns it.
So how did the two end up lunching in Buffett’s home town a couple of weeks ago?
Williams, while honoured to be at the same lunch table as Buffett, was not as interested in how to make his money grow as the affable Buffett was in what drives Williams. They talked and talked, and a scheduled one-hour lunch stretched comfortably to two.
Williams, who was accompanied to Omaha by his father, Bill, is an international global messenger, sitting on the board of the International Special Olympics, along with celebrities such as Maria Shriver and skater Michelle Kwan.
Buffett wanted to know Williams’ role in the organization. With two other board members at the table, Williams explained the impact which Special Olympics has on athletes and the difference it makes in their lives.
Special Olympics, as its website notes, “is humanity’s greatest classroom, where lessons of ability, acceptance and inclusion are taught on the fields of competition by our greatest teachers — the athletes.”
Williams probably already knew that Buffett is a philanthropist with an amazing aptitude for money and business, but Buffett likely was unaware that Williams, an epileptic who was a Special Olympics athlete, has the gift of speech.
After the lunch, for which a bill apparently never materialized, Williams flew back to Langley, worked a couple of shifts at the Walnut Grove Montana’s, and on Tuesday (June 21) flew to Athens for the Special Olympics World Summer Games.
While in Athens, he will deliver an address to the Greek Parliament, to diplomats at the Canadian Embassy, and speak elsewhere on behalf of all the athletes gathered for the competition.
His audiences will see a 19-year-old who, despite so many odds against him, has shaken off the challenges to become a high-functioning young man with his powerful gift of speech.
He was born with epilepsy and an intellectual disability which made learning difficult and, over time, isolated him from his peers. Then in Grade 8 one of his WGSS teachers, Sue Kydd, told him about Special Olympics, and Williams found his niche. He competed in track and field, speed skating, basketball, curling and baseball.
He won’t be competing in Athens, and he’s not at all disappointed.
“Speaking is one of my loves,” Williams said.
“And I’m glad that I can go to Athens for the opportunity.”
He will touch upon some of the issues he mentioned to Buffett, that Special Olympics raises confidence, bringing shy athletes out of their shells, and how lasting friendships are formed and ambitions are strengthened.
When Williams’ five-year term as an international global ambassador ends, it won’t be the end of his commitment to the cause.
He plans to become a personal trainer for people with disabilities.
• Langley has more than 160 athletes involved in Special Olympics, who are assisted by a team of 60 coaches and volunteers. There are 12 winter and summer sports which offer those with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enjoy both the sport and social aspect.
Athletes who would like to join, or people who would like to volunteer, may contact Dick Jennens at 604-530-8792.