Marty Sheets began his life in 1953 by being born prematurely. The first 15 days of his life were spent in an incubator and soon after that, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome. From a young age, his parents encouraged him to interact with the world to practice his social skills and taught him to be the best he could be. This eventually led him to become a decorated Special Olympic Athlete.
His athletic journey began as a child when he discovered a love for swimming in the pool and waterskiing. As a child, he attended Greensborough Public School. Sheets wrestled for the middle school and was a part of the distributive education program at his high school. At age 15, he began participating in activities designed for intellectually challenged youths. In this program, he stood out for his talents in swimming. In 1968, he was selected to participate in the first International Special Olympics Competition. Sheets was unable to compete because of a brief illness. Although, he was awarded a Gold Medal at the event banquet. This was only the beginning of his Olympic journey. After that, he competed in many other Special Olympic Games.
Sheets ended his athletic career with over 250 Special Olympic medals. He was a multisport athlete competing in events such as golf, tennis skills, skiing, swimming, and powerlifting. Sheets competed in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in the skiing event in 1977. He took home a pair of bronze medals.
Because of his successes, he was able to meet multiple celebrities and public figures during his athletic career. Some of these include Billy Kidd, John Denver, Arthur Ashe, Evander Holyfield, President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Grant Hill, and Gary Player. He became a member of the Special Olympic North American Golf Committee because golf became his favorite sport. While on the committee, he helped to recruit volunteers, traveled the country, and represented the Special Olympics.
He was selected as an official torch-bearer for the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. He has won many awards including the Distinguished Citizen Award from the N.C. Employment Network of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the national Volunteer of the Year Award from the PGA Tour. Sheets passed away at age 62 in 2015. We will remember his legacy.