Special Olympics Southern California athlete Dustin Plunkett has been active in Special Olympics for more than 19 years. He has thrived as both an athlete and a public speaker, no small task for a young man with a speech impediment and a cleft palate in addition to his intellectual disability.

Dustin has risen to the highest ranks of athlete leadership as an International Global Messenger, where he has had the opportunity to travel the world--China, Alaska, Nebraska, Washington DC--to name a few. One of his fondest memories was sharing the stage with Yao Ming at the World Games in Shanghai. He has also served as an athlete representative and Board Member on the Board of Special Olympics Southern California.

Plunkett relishes each opportunity he can get to reach people and share his own story of success over adversity in order to inspire others to do the same. Special Olympics has empowered him take control of his own life and to break the negative cycle that surrounded his family as he grew up, moving from home to home and family member to family member. Plunkett has found varying levels of success as an athlete, but there is one aspect of life in which he constantly succeeds—giving back.

Plunkett is a coach for young athletes in basic sports skills, the assistant basketball coach for the Lakewood Special Olympics program. He was a member of the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Southern California, as well as LA2015, the 2015 World Games Organizing Committee, and a member of the World Games staff as a Games Associate and Uniform Coordinator. During the World Games he served as an ESPN Analyst calling the parade of athletes live on ESPN during opening ceremonies.