Special Olympic athlete from WI talks about ESPYs experience - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Special Olympic athlete from WI talks about ESPYs experience

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Neillsville (WAOW) -- It was an experience of a lifetime for a Clark County athlete who went to the ESPYs Wednesday.

Daina Shilts of Neillsville was one of eight Special Olympics athletes on stage alongside Michelle Obama.

"In my wildest dreams I never knew I'd be going this far," said Shilts. "I felt like a celebrity, I was a celebrity for a day and it was so cool."

From walking the red carpet to a meet and greet with Michelle Obama, it was an unforgettable experience for the gold medal snowboarder.

"I kept having to pinch myself to know I wasn't in a dream," said Shilts. "I was in awe."

Inside Shilts' home now sits an ESPY, she was one of 25 athletes in the country to get an honorary ESPY award.

"To know that I received what any other athlete receives was really meaningful for me, this definitely ranks on top," said Shilts.

Inside her cell phone and on social media are numerous pictures of Shilts with celebrities, including Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Michael Phelps.

"We thought we were in a dream, we just kept saying what a day, what a day," said Shilts.

Her favorite was meeting Aaron Rodgers, who she high fived and hugged.

"A little girl from a little town in Neillsville, they all knew who I was," said Shilts.

It hasn't always been easy getting to this point, Shilts was bullied in school for her cognitive learning disability. But her days at the ESPYs were filled with praise.

"People would come up to me and say you're so inspirational, you came so far," said Shilts. "To hear that and know what happened to me in middle school, it's just amazing to know that I was people's hero, inspiration."

Right along side Daina was her mom Jan.

"It's everything my husband and I had every hoped for Dana," said Jan.

An experience that will stick with Daina the rest of her life.

"I will never forget this, as long as I live," said Daina.

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