Superhero training camp

Senior showcases his powers at two inclusive events


Kris Pachunka

Senior Josh Pachunka displays his undershirt that says “SUPER HERO!” after his program’s graduation. With the help of a mentor, he delivered a great speech on his strengths and the importance of Special Olympics. “I am hoping all of you are getting involved with Special Olympics to help other superheroes get stronger, faster and learn more about themselves,” Pachunka said. “And remember, always be super!”

Emma Baker, Staff reporter

Not all superheroes wear capes. Some go to school and play sports.

On Wednesday, September 25th, senior Josh Pachunka had a day chock-full of inclusive celebration. Not only did he meet Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, Pachunka also graduated from the Special Olympics Nebraska (SONE) Athlete Leadership Program. 

It all sprouted from his love of sports. Pachunka has been involved in bowling, track and field and soccer. After one fateful soccer game at Skutt last year, senior Sophie Hill asked Josh to join SONE’s team. He accepted the offer, practicing all summer long in preparation for his games in August. It was then that he was asked to participate in SONE’s Athlete Leadership Program.

During the four week course, Pachunka was partnered with mentor Ben Feiten. Together, they created the speech Pachunka would present on the program’s graduation day. It focused on his three strengths he learned from the Clifton Strengths Explorer: organization, dependability and confidence. 

In his speech, he connected his best qualities and day to day life to that of a superhero.

“Superheroes have super strengths and Special Olympics gave me a lot of strengths, too,” Pachunka said. “Special Olympics is my superhero training camp.”

When his speech concluded, he took off his glasses, stepped to the center and ripped open his button up shirt to reveal a T-shirt with “SUPER HERO!” across the front. The audience responded with cheers and a standing ovation. 

Earlier that day, Pachunka had been the one in the audience. He was one of four SONE members to be invited to Tim Shriver’s speaking engagement for Omaha’s Town Hall Lecture Series. 

Shriver has helped transform Special Olympics from one million athletes to six million athletes worldwide. His hour lecture, titled “Shame and Blame or Heal and Create: The Choice is Ours,” touched on what the Inclusion Revolution is all about.

“We think SONE is important because it provides opportunity for people of all abilities to participate and be part of a loving and accepting community,” parents Joe and Kris Pachunka said. “No judgement … just love.”

Josh would agree. The meaningful friendships he has created with his teammates has been his favorite part of Special Olympics. Pachunka has also learned to embrace who he really is.

Last year, he created a story called Captain Sonic. It chronicles a young alien named Josh, aka Captain Sonic,  whose planet has been destroyed by his evil brother. Pachunka got to share his book and talk on other matters with Shriver himself at a one-on-one meeting before the lecture.

That was something monumental for Pachunka. Not only did he feel important talking to Shriver, the opportunity showed off his growth.

“I think just from freshman to senior year his progress has been incredible,” teacher Danielle Anderson said. “Talking to Tim is something he would never have been able to do in ninth grade. I’m so proud of all my kids who branch out and take risks.”

Pachunka continues to inspire all those around him with his kind heart, strong work ethic and athletic prowess. He won’t be throwing in his cape anytime soon.

Josh Pachunka
Chairman of Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, and senior Josh Pachunka take a selfie together. Pachunka got to meet Shriver one-on-one before his speaking engagement at Omaha’s Town Hall Lecture Series. “Mr. Shriver is an inspiration because he continues to carry on his family’s beliefs through his relatability and caring attitude towards individuals, like our son, Josh,” parents Joe and Kris Pachunka said.