Indiana icon and Major League Baseball great Carl Erskine has made a positive impact on the lives of countless Special Olympics athletes over the past 50 years. So who better than the athletes to serve as spokespersons for the new documentary “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story”?
In the official role of Erskine Ambassadors, athletes greet attendees and make a welcome speech before each showing of the Ted Green Films documentary. In turn, they are showing movie goers how Carl’s influence has opened opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
In all, Special Olympics Indiana has chosen 13 athletes from across the state to serve as Erskine Ambassadors through 2023, including: Leanne Bettenhausen, Porter County; Hiawatha Davis, Tippecanoe County; Dustin Gent, Madison County; Alise Hazelett, Allen County; Nicolas Herran, Washington Township; Brian Kellems, Vanderburgh County; Ryan Kempf, Dubois County; Danie’l Mize, Bartholomew-Brown-Jennings County; Jordan Nagle, Tippecanoe County; Josh Saupe, Hendricks County; Paula Sneed, Clark-Floyd County; Alec Spaulding, Washington Township; Kim Szelinski, Porter County.
Active as an Erskine Ambassador since the film’s debut in August, Hiawatha Davis wanted to be involved with the program to learn more about the Erskine family. He was inspired by the story of Carl and his son Jimmy, who was born in 1960 with Down syndrome. Special Olympics was just getting started as Jimmy was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and at the urging of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Carl used his star power to raise awareness for the movement.
“My favorite part about Carl Erskine’s story is … he included athletes like me in the story,” Hiawatha said.
Hiawatha, who also goes by H, competes in basketball, bowling, flag football, snowshoeing and track and field. He is also active in Athlete Leadership as well as the local Unified Fitness Club. He said his favorite part of being in Special Olympics is the chance to meet new people.
Whether on or off the field, Hiawatha tries to set a positive example and make sure everyone feels respected and included — just like Carl.
“When one of my teammates is having a bad day, I let them know they can make it with whatever they are going through,” he said. “No matter what the outcome of a game, everyone is a champion.”