GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – I.K. Kim had never heard of the Special Olympics a year ago. But she wanted to donate money to American-based charity and researched ones that were out there.
A friend told her about the international program that helps intellectually disabled people compete in sports. More than 1 million athletes compete in the Special Olympics in 170 countries, but it all started in the United States.
Kim found her foundation.
She was named a global ambassador for the Special Olympics at a press conference at the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Saturday.
“I'm just thrilled to be part of the organization,” said Kim, who finished the tournament 4-over-par and missed the cut by a stroke. “I'm looking forward to working with the athletes with lessons and clinics. Mostly, I think awareness. I think a lot of people don't have an education.”
Kim has looked for ways to give back throughout her career. In 2010, she won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and announced she would donate her entire winnings of $220,000 to charity. Half went to the Lorena Ochoa Foundation and the other half to the Special Olympics.
“Five years on the tour, she has been one of the top 10 golfers in the world,” said Peter Wheeler of the Special Olympics. “She has also taken her passion for golf and has shown a passion for people and community.”
Several local Special Olympians were on-hand to thank for Kim for becoming an ambassador, but also to take part of a clinic she held after her second round.
Galloway Township's Michael Chanese, 29, was happy to see Kim and enjoy one of his favorite sports. Chanese competes in golf, bowling and boxing for the Special Olympics.
“I do like golf,” Chanese said. “I like all the sports.”
Chanese's mother Carol appreciates what the Special Olympics has done for her son.
“It means everything,” Carol Chanese said. “He gets to play sports and is able to be part of something.”