All athletes are welcome here at the YMCA of Greater Rochester. So, let’s take time to highlight one of our very own: Amanda Vito.
Amanda — a Teaching Assistant by day at our Eastside Child Care Center at Fairport Baptist Homes — was in Berlin, Germany last week competing in the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Along with Martha Pachuta, Amanda’s Unified partner, the duo was amongst nearly 200 combined athletes and partners competing in golf in this year’s games.
It was a long road to being selected for the World Games; Amanda was denied the opportunity twice before getting the call on her third try. All she’s ever wanted to do is show her skills on the biggest stages possible.
“What got me prepared for this was putting all that behind me. It helped me getting through with going to World Games this year, which is such a great opportunity,” said Amanda, who has worked for the YMCA for over 20 years.
Amanda has been a lifelong athlete. She has competed with the Special Olympics in basketball, track and field, bocce, soccer, softball, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and bowling. She also trained with PGA professional Brian Jacobs to ensure she was as prepared as possible before the World Games.
Considering that Amanda got to golf amongst roughly 170 countries this summer at the World Games, those years of competing developed the competitive drive she has taken to the golf course.
“The other sports that I used to do helped me so much for getting ready to go to Germany,” said Amanda. “I put all my 100% (effort) into all my sports that I did for Special Olympics with the support behind me and all the people that love me and helped do this, it’s amazing.”
Martha has been with Amanda many steps of the way, as they’ve competed together before, including taking home gold in golf in the 2022 Special Olympics New York State Fall Games in Glens Falls, NY. The two watched the 2023 Augusta National Women's Amateur together, home to the PGA’s vaunted Masters Tournament.
“Being able to be Amanda’s partner is so fantastic because we’ve been able to become really good friends,” said Martha, who was named the Special Olympics’ inaugural Annette Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient in 2022. “And not only am I her coach, but a mentor. Our friendship has really grown over this opportunity, and I think it really helps us to build each other’s confidence because we are so comfortable with one another.”
Martha added that she and Amanda understand each other’s golf habits now and that Amanda has passed her many tips on the course.
Another person who is proud to see where Amanda is today is her father, George. His family adopted Amanda and brought her and her brother to the US from Colombia when she was 10 years old.
Knowing Amanda’s journey — having twice been a track and field alternate for the World Games and not being selected on her first two attempts — earning the trip to Berlin was something George was delighted to see.
“This is the culmination of a dream for her,” George said. “Special Olympics gave her the confidence. She knows she can compete; she knows she can win. She’s a really strong competitor, I think she got a lot of that from me because I’m a competitor. I want to win.”
George believes Amanda’s work with the Special Olympics has given her confidence with public speaking engagements before large crowds. He’s thankful for the growth it’s provided her and for being able to see her develop her independence.
“As dad, seeing her mature this way, you know that when I’m out of the picture she’ll be fine,” George said. “That’s all a part of the process, so that’s how I see the whole thing.”