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Earlier this week, Engel & Völkers professionals in the United States, Mexico and Canada convened in Dallas for the real estate company’s largest annual event in North America, the Exchange. The four-day- long conference featured the best of the business coming together to exchange ideas and experiences

On Wednesday, one of the individuals invited to enlighten the staff by sharing the story of her own experiences was Special Olympics Texas athlete and Global Messenger Stacey Johnson.

Johnson, 36, is from Allen and participates in several SOTX sports, including: Aquatics, Athletics, Bocce and Equestrian. Before some of the employees in attendance would later go on to play in the company golf outing that benefited Special Olympics, Johnson addressed the elite of Engel & Völkers staff by telling her story.

Johnson was born with a progressive bone disease called Van Buchem disease. Her bones and skull are very thick and she is totally deaf in her right ear and partially deaf in the left. She also has sight, balance and strength issues. She gets tired very easily.

In 1999, Johnson had to have surgery due to the pressure on her brain.

Unfortunately when she woke up, she was unable to sit up or walk.  Because of that, she had to go to in-house rehab and learn how to do everything all over again. The doctors could not explain to Johnson and her family why she could not walk. 

Johnson had to use a wheel chair and on a really good day, she was able to use a walker.

“I did not have a lot of good days,” Johnson told the audience. “The doctors told my parents and I, that I would not be able to walk again.”

What kept her pushing hard at recovery was her will and desire to ride and compete in Special Olympics.

“I never gave up,” Johnson said. “I worked really hard every day and riding was one of my physical therapies.”

The riding therapy was not the kind of riding Johnson knew and loved. Instead of being able to ride independently, she had to have two side walkers to ensure that she did not fall off.

“I hated riding like that, but at least I was on a horse,” Johnson explained.  “I wanted to ride and compete!”

With hard work and determination, Johnson started walking and the doctors were amazed by what she was able to do.

“Special Olympics has helped me in so many ways,” expressed Johnson.  “It has taught me courage and self-esteem. I can do anything as long as I put my heart and soul into trying.  Special Olympics has given me a place to belong and a place to meet new friends just like you.”

Johnson admits that she still has some physical health issues, but she knows every morning when she wakes up, she has Special Olympics and riding to look forward to.

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