Publish date:

Raising the Bar

From October through June for each of the past 10 years Donna Roberto, 57, has spent Saturday evenings at a Hawthorne, N.J., gym coaching her Elite Special Gymnastics team, which this summer counted Courtney Muns (below, left) and Edi Webbe among its 15 members, who range in age from seven to 34. A gymnast herself in high school, Roberto first started volunteering for Special Olympics in 1980. Whether she is helping Stacy Nonas with her form on the uneven bars (right), monitoring Lisa Zabielski on the balance beam (far right), encouraging Courtney (bottom row, middle) to stand on her own so she won't receive a points deduction or sharing the team's delight in a videotape of its performance at the New Jersey Games in June, Roberto finds it hard to imagine spending her Saturdays any other way. "What motivates me," she says, "is just seeing the joy in them when they accomplish something."


Photographs by Lynn Johnson