APG employee wins gold at Maryland Special Olympics
Danny Grau prepares for the equestrian sports competition held at the Prince George's County Equestrian Center during the Special Olympics Maryland annual Summer Games June 9. Grau won two gold medals during the trail riding and equitation competition and one gold medal during the softball competition.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - An Aberdeen Proving Ground contractor won three gold medals during the Special Olympics Maryland annual Summer Games held at the Towson University campus last month.

Danny Grau, who has worked as a janitor at the C4ISR complex for two years, won two gold medals during the trail riding and equitation competition, in which riders are judged on the their performance and control of their horse. He also won one gold medal during the softball competition.

The Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 3.7 million athletes in more than 170 countries.

Grau, who is autistic, began therapeutic riding at Normandy Farms in Harford County at age 9. Three years later he began competing in equestrian sports at the Special Olympics.

"Danny always liked horses, he excels in equestrian sports, and throughout the years he has won many gold medals," said his father, Fred Grau, a contractor who works for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and is an assistant coach on Danny's softball team, the Red Dogs.

"I have fun, meet new friends and, of course, I love winning medals," Danny said.

His drive to win medals took him all the way to the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China. To prepare for the equestrian competition he would run six miles on the treadmill every day. He took home the bronze medal in equitation, the silver in relay racing and received fourth place in trail riding.

"They treated him like royalty there," Fred said. "Before and during the competition he was self-motivated, very disciplined. Participating in the Special Olympics has taught Danny how to have a good work ethic which prepared him for his job at APG."

In addition to participating in softball and equestrian sports, Danny also competes in floor hockey, skiing and basketball competitions during the Maryland Special Olympics' annual Winter Games.

Fred, who has served as a coach for nine years, said that he immensely enjoys volunteering for the Special Olympics.

"I have seen a number of athletes grow up and mature right before my eyes," he said. "The athletes have become my friends. Sometimes I think I have learned more from them than they have from me."

Fred added that about 40 athletes from Harford County participate in the Special Olympics. Athletes practice 10 weeks before competition. They are grouped in competition teams according to the athlete's and team's ability level. To learn more about Harford County's Special Olympics program, contact Mile Watkins at mdwatkins@harfordcountymd.gov or 410-638-4899.

Other winners

Other janitors who work at the C4ISR campus also won medals for softball during the Maryland Special Olympics. Keith England and Sarah Hall, Danny's teammates on the Red Dogs, also won gold medals. From the Bulldog team, Stacey Hull, Brian Parks and Chris Hanson, who compete in a different division, won bronze medals. These individuals are contractors from Chimes International, which provides vocational training for individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and other specialized needs.

Page last updated Mon July 23rd, 2012 at 15:42