By Nick Nahas

Jessica Miller competed in her first Special Olympics event nearly 15 years ago. Her father, Jon Miller, convinced her to participate in the 100-yard dash at Durant High School. Jessica won the contest with flying colors, and she kept running, even though her shoe came off in the process.
Jon was waiting at the finish line, signaling to Jessica to stop at the finish, but she didn’t hear him and kept running with one shoe on around the track. Jessica is a big competitor. “I love to win,” she said.

Every year since then, Jessica, who has Down Syndrome, has competed in the Special Olympics. She has participated in local events and district and state competitions as well. In May, she won a silver medal at the state level in a tennis skills event. Jessica loves to take part in tennis, bowling and swimming contests, which all occur throughout the year. “She gives it 110 percent,” Jon Miller said. “She likes to win, but at the same time, she cheers for all of her friends and all of the other athletes to win too.”

Miller, a Valrico native, has lived in the area most of her life. She graduated from Bloomingdale High School in 2007. In her spare time, Jessica likes to swim, go to church and to the movies. She also enjoys singing and is a part of her church’s choir and Sunday School program. She works on Tuesdays at Stein Mart as well. She also likes hanging out with her longtime friends Rima and David from school. Rima participates in Special Olympics with Jessica.

Jessica has an infectious attitude that rubs off on almost everybody that she meets. She always has a smile on her face, despite her challenges. She lives life as a happy person, and in the process, she leaves a positive impact on all that meet her and get to know her. “She obviously means the world to me,” said Jon. “She has helped give me a perspective on life that’s much different because of how kind she is and how loving she is. She doesn’t get caught up in the day-to-day drama of the world and she gives the best hugs around.”

On June 9, TD Bank hosted its annual Special Olympics Trading Card Day in Hillsborough County to raise money. Community members and media were invited in to local TD Bank branches to meet athletes participating in this year’s games. The fundraiser enables employees, customers, friends and family to support the goal of raising more than $1 million for Special Olympics in the states where TD operates. To date, $8.7 million has been raised for Special Olympics programs.
If you would like to donate to the cause, contact your local TD Bank.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.