Greenfield’s Manion, Gibson win unified national title


Pictured third and fourth from the left, Greenfield’s Caroline Gibson and Todd Manion display their gold medals won at the Special Olympics US Games in Orlando, Fla.

Submitted photos

GREENFIELD — Todd Manion has always been a competitor.

It all started while growing up in Massillon, Ohio, a city known for its high school football team, the Massillon Tigers.

He is still competitive, but a lot has changed in his life, now 55-years old and residing in Greenfield.

When he was living in Savannah, Georgia, Manion suffered heat stroke and nearly died. He had a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is still being treated, 12 years after it happened.

The injury was suffered while playing at his tennis club. When he woke up the next day in the hospital he didn’t recognize his tennis partner. He had numerous medical issues related to the event.

“My wife (Mary) said, I wasn’t the same man she married,” Manion said. “I had totally changed. It’s been tough, really tough.”

“I nearly passed away that night,” Manion added.

One of the treatments to help Manion’s mind was getting him enrolled in Special Olympics.

It has helped keep his mind sharp and last week it satisfied his competitive needs by playing in the 2022 Special Olympics US Games in Orlando, Fla.

He teamed up with Greenfield resident Caroline Gibson, who had helped lead Greenfield-Central to the girls golf state tournament. She is now playing at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Manion and Gibson combined to win the national title and gold medal in Unified Golf.

The tournament was played at Orange County National Golf Center. With an alternate shot format, the two had a four-round average of 78 to take first place.

Manion is hopeful, as national champions, they will be invited to be part of Team USA and compete in the World Games next year in Berlin, Germany. Prior to winning gold in Orlando, he had won nine state titles.

He said golf is a good game for him because, “Each shot gives you a different challenge. It’s never the same,” he said.

The Manions moved to Greenfield to be closer to one of the nation’s top neurologists, Dr. Martin Farlow. Once in Greenfield, the Manion and Gibson families became close friends.

He said he had worked with others in unified golf, but knew Gibson would be great to play with in Orlando. He had a special comfort of playing with someone he knew well.

“I’ve seen her play,” Manion said. “She has a passion about the game. She loves it. She’s great around everybody. She’s great to get along with. I wanted someone that I was comfortable with. That helped me mentally this whole week. I get a little frustrated and she’s there to calm me down. That was my decision to take Caroline as my partner, there was a comfort level.”

Both got a lot out of their week-long trip in Orlando, which both shared with their families.

Gibson said she got a lot out of her trip, more than just competing with her family friend and golfing partner.

“I get chills everywhere I go,” Gibson said of being at the Special Olympics venues. “It’s so cool to see all of these athletes get to do what they love to do and not be looked at any differently than they would be anywhere else. They can truly be themselves.

“I was sitting there during the cheerleading competition and they were getting their awards,” Gibson added. “It just gives you chills. They were jumping up and down for getting fifth place. Why aren’t we all like that? I look over and the security guard is bawling. You can tell these kids and athlete have an impact on someone. After we played our last hole (in our last competition), Todd wrapped his arms around me and it about made me cry. They love being out here and I love it.”