JP Monroe, of Powell Butte, has been competing and excelling in events in the Special Olympics for more than 20 years

by: KEVIN SPERL - John Paul Monroe sits on the porch of his home in Powell Butte, with his mom, Vickie.

John Paul Monroe exemplifies the true spirit of the Olympics.

Two years ago, he competed in a regional winter snowshoeing competition and was well in the lead. Noticing that his nearest competitor had fallen, he turned around to help.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

When he was assured that he was, Monroe took off and won the event.

Monroe has lived with cerebral palsy for his entire 35 years and, since he was eight-years old, has competed at some level in the Special Olympics.

“JP,” as he is known by his family and friends, lives with his family in Powell Butte, a place he has called home since he was 8 months old.

“The Special Olympics has taught JP so much,” said his mom, Vickie. “It gives him pride, allows him to compete and earn awards, and be a part of the High Desert team. It is really a good deal.”

JP’s condition may affect his speech, vision and cognitive learning ability, but not his love of sports, or of competing in them.

When not participating, he can be found watching World Cup soccer, the Mariners and Seahawks, professional golf and the Bend Elks summer baseball team.

A member of Oregon’s High Desert team, which includes athletes from Deschutes and Crook counties, JP’s latest love is the game of bocce.

According to, the game is second only to soccer in world popularity, but throwing balls toward a target is deemed by some to be the oldest game known to mankind. The sport is played with one small ball, called a pallino, and eight larger balls, called bocce — four for each team. The pallino is thrown first and becomes the target, then each bocce is thrown with the goal of placing it as close to the pallino as possible.

“A lot of athletes have vision issues, so any sport in which they are throwing a ball away from themselves is a good thing,” laughed Vickie. “JP is definitely visually impaired but I always say that anyone who can find their own golf balls can see well enough.”

JP teamed up with Sarah Olde as his partner, and was one of 18 High Desert teams practicing at Pilot Butte State Park for nine weeks in advance of the regional competition, held at the end of June.

Scheduled to compete against teams from Cottage Grove, JP was disappointed to learn that the opposition had failed to show, thus earning him a gold medal by default.

“JP was devastated because he really wanted to play,” said Vickie. “But, that’s real life, and they took it all so well.”

Displaying his true Olympic spirit once again, JP was awarded the sportsmanship award for his positive attitude.

When not involved with sports, JP manages his own worm composting farm, tends to 12 chickens, and works at the Opportunity Foundation’s Possibilities Thrift Store in Bend, where his mom is employed as a vocational aide.

JP already has his sights set on upcoming competitions as he will compete in bowling in the fall and snowshoeing next winter.

Vickie says that bowling is definitely JP’s favorite sport of all, as he gets to knock down the pins, hang out with his friends and, best of all, eat curly fries afterwards.

If not for the luck of the draw, JP would be competing in the Oregon State games this coming weekend in bocce.

“All regional gold medalists and some silver medalists had their names put in a hat and those picked went on,” explained Vickie. “Ever since there were limits established on the number of athletes that could attend it has been hard on the athletes, as they all want to go.”

Maybe so, but JP’s true Olympic spirit will see him through.

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