Nolensville neighbors welcome Special Olympics gold medalist home


When Bethany Stineman of Nolensville returned from Orlando earlier this month, she and her family found a sweet surprise.

Local fire and police departments escorted them on their way through town and onto Summerlyn Drive where family, friends, neighbors and even local school staff lined the housing estate’s main street.

They cheered Stineman’s huge win at the 2022 Special Olympics USA. She won not one, but two gold medals.

Stineman got out of her car, shocked.

“I was not expecting that at all !” she told her audience of friends, family and media.

Stineman hugged nearly everyone among the dozens who gathered to celebrate his victories. She even placed her shiny, heavy medals in the hands of the few, letting them feel the uplifting weight of success.

Neighbors gather to welcome gold medalist Bethany Stineman to the Summerlyn subdivision in Nolensville, Tennessee on Sunday, June 12, 2022, after attending the 2022 Special Olympics USA in Orlando, Florida.

Earlier this year, Stineman became the youngest and only competitor from Williamson County, and the first from Nolensville High, to qualify for Special Olympics USA.

After years of cancellations and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her family were thrilled to finally attend the games. They raised funds throughout the first half of 2022 in order to attend.

And when it was finally time to leave for Florida, even the city of Nolensville and its board of commissioners honored her.

During the event, Stineman had the best throw of the competition in the shot put (5.05 meters), as well as the mini javelin (13.3 meters).

Stineman’s mother, Pam Stineman, kept fans updated on Facebook throughout the week in Orlando.

“As I started posting that she had won a gold medal, the emails started and (subscribers) were so happy,” she said. “Then the emails started and the neighbors texted me asking what time we were going to be home, so I had a feeling something was up their sleeve… But I don’t I didn’t expect so much.”

Bethany Stineman, the first Nolensville High School student to qualify for the 2022 Special Olympics USA, is pictured Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Nolensville, Tennessee.  Stineman will compete in the mini javelin, shot put and long jump when the Special Olympics takes place in Orlando, Fla. next year.

Admire the blue and white balloons, signs, and sparkly human-sized cut-out letters that read “Congrats Bethany!” and “USA” displayed on the lawn of her house, she asked her mother if she could use them to decorate her bedroom and keep them forever. To which, her mother of course replied “Yes”.

Bethany Stineman, 21, waves to neighbors who gathered to welcome her home in Nolensville, Tennessee, Sunday, June 12, 2022, after winning two gold medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Pam Stineman. “This has got to be the best neighborhood in the country.”

Several other athletes qualified and competed in the Special Olympics USA Games this year from Williamson County, including Norris Peterson, Eric Wilson, Braden Jenkins, Aiden Holdaway and Matthew Drumright.

Peterson, who lives in Franklin, won two silver and a bronze in powerlifting, while Brentwood resident Drumright won a gold in golf. Fairview resident Jenkins won a bronze medal on the Tennessee basketball team.

Anika Exum is a reporter covering Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY – Tennessee Network. Reach her at [email protected], 615-347-7313 or on Twitter @aniexum. To stay up to date on Williamson County news, sign up for our newsletter.


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