Photo courtesy of Marky Oliver. Marky Oliver and his athletes went to Georgia for a powerlifting competition.

Marky Oliver has always had an interest in helping people train to achieve their personal fitness goals. The former USF football player was working out of his Crossfit gym as a personal trainer when he noticed a client’s son, a young man with Down Syndrome named Andrew. Oliver took an interest in Andrew and wanted to figure out a way to help train him.

Oliver took Andrew on as a client and trained him for free. “I started training him and he touched my heart,” said Oliver. After a couple months of working with Oliver, Andrew invited him to the Special Olympics. It was there that Oliver realized his purpose—he wanted to help train people with autism and Down Syndrome.

Oliver became a Special Olympics powerlifting coach and had tremendous success. He now has the largest powerlifting team in Hillsborough County. They just sent nine athletes to compete in Georgia at the National Powerlifting Championship.

According to Oliver, over 60 percent of people with a disability are overweight. He said that this is due to a lack of resources and opportunity. He started a program called Specially Fit that offers year-round workouts for people with special needs. They also provide year-round opportunities to compete in the Special Olympics for free. In less than five months, the program has grown from just one person to about 200.

Oliver trains at six different locations in the Tampa area, including three days a week at the Brandon Swim and Aquatics Center. He plans on expanding to Orlando early this year. Oliver is currently training the athletes for the Special Olympic track and volleyball seasons.

“It means the world watching them smile, it brings more joy to me than I have ever had in my life, more than any personal, physical accomplishment,” said Oliver. “They have helped me so much more than I have helped them. They have changed my life in the way that I view things, and they make me a better person.”

For information, or if you would like to donate or be a sponsor, visit the website at Oliver is also on Facebook and Instagram at Specially Fit.

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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.