Staff Writer: Madison Mataxas
Growing up and finding your place throughout elementary and middle school is a challenge in itself, but it becomes even more difficult when you are not able to express yourself in the ways you want. This was the situation that Michael Wayne O’Neill found himself in. At the age of 2, O’Neill was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and did not speak until he was almost 8 years old. This hurdle did not stand in his way. If anything, now he feels that he is “making up for lost time” by making a name for himself as both a public speaker, play-by-play commentator, and journalist.
O’Neill did not start with an interest in sports, until one day he went with his mother to his older brother’s football practice. It was there that the coach asked him if he’d like to be a water boy and from that point on he began watching football, learned about the game, and began listening to the commentators.
He used this newfound love of sports and commentating to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and journalism in hopes of becoming a play-by-play announcer, or to be more exact, O’Neill said that he will be “the next Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football.” From 2018 to 2019, he secured an internship with The Enquirer-Journal in Monroe. Not long after he had his first article published, he was offered the opportunity to become a correspondent for the Enquirer.
He has had over 100 articles published for the Enquirer, and “his dedication to reporting the truth paves a promising future for him,” said Senior Sports Writer Jeremy Vernon. This kick-started his sports writing career and from then on O’Neill can be seen at practically every sports event in the area from college to high school. This dedication to journalism and being part of these events in the area are all factors that contributed to Michael Wayne O’Neill being known as “Mr. Union County”.
After becoming more involved in his love of sports and his love of people, he knew that his dream of becoming the next Al Michaels was within his grasp; that’s where Dream On 3 comes in. Co-Founder & Executive Director, Elizabeth Lindsey, is always more than happy to speak about the organization and what they do to help individuals achieve their dreams. “The organization grants sports dreams to individuals ages 5-21 with life-altering conditions.” Dream On 3 made Michael O’Neill’s dream of meeting his favorite sports commentator, Al Michaels in September of 2019 in Atlanta, GA. “I call him the GOAT of Sports Broadcasting,” said O’Neill.
It was after this experience of a lifetime and getting to know Co-Founders Elizabeth, Brandon, and the rest of the DO3 team he knew that he wanted to support Dream On 3, and in March of 2021, O’Neill was asked to become the first Dream Ambassador for DO3. O’Neill said that he was “more than honored to take on this responsibility.”
Each year DO3 hosts its annual Dream Gala which is one of the Charlotte area’s most anticipated charity events and the organization’s largest fundraiser. Here is where the honored guests, celebrity athletes, and DO3 friends from all over the country join the Dream Team to honor our Dream Kids and help fund the mission of Dream On 3. When looking for a recipient of the Volunteer of the Year award, Elizabeth Lindsey said, “We look for someone who displays the mission of Dream On 3 in character and action. This person typically attends events and/or helps the staff team with planning events, supporting Dream Kids and families, and engages regularly.”
This year’s recipient for the 2021 award, Michael Wayne O’Neill, or Mr. Union County as many know him, is the embodiment of all those characteristics. O’Neill accepted the award, thanked his family, friends, and his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for this blessing and the tireless work they have put in” to make all of this possible for him. “This award is another step forward in my walk with Christ. What a fantastic evening it was celebrating this milestone with my family and the organization that I cherish,” O’Neill said.
With many accomplishments already under his belt, Michael Wayne O’Neill is also pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with an Emphasis in Sports Media at Wingate University. After he graduates in December 2023, O’Neill wants to continue working toward his dream of play-by-play announcing and helping anyone that crosses his path.