"When you attend a Special Olympics Games, you begin to realize there is much more at work than simply athletic competition. On one hand, it is the story of years of tragedy transformed into pure joy, driven by the beauty of sheer effort. But at the same time, it is a profound statement of inclusion - that everybody matters, everybody counts, every life has value and every person has worth." -Nelson Mandela
For the fourth year in a row, I have had the AMAZING opportunity to participate in the state summer games for Special Olympics. This past weekend I was an Olympian as I raced my heart out in both the 200 meter and 400 meter track and field event. Before I get into the nitty gritty of this amazingly spectacular weekend (yes, I use the word amazing quite a bit), I want to tell you all how I got here in the first place.
It all started during my freshman year of high school when I was (sadly) denied a place on the track team for my high school because of a lack of "help" for my special "needs" and requirements but, thats a whole other story. During an IEP meeting, a staff member from my school had suggested that the high school track team was not the place for me but, instead I should consider Special Olympics. As we walked out of the meeting my mother's eyes filled with tears at the thought of me joining this team. She remembers thinking about how wrong this person was and that the individuals in Special Olympics were much more severe than her little baby. We were so wrong. Joining Special Olympics was and still is, hands down, one of the greatest decisions of my life. The positivity, the friendships, the teamwork, the unity, the love, are just a few reasons why I call my spot on this team home and why my teammates are like family. Truly, we are like a oversized family; we all have our little quirks but thats what makes us fit together so perfectly. Like, close your eyes and imagine being surrounded by those who GENUINELY wanted to see you succeed, encouraged you, cheered you on, picked you up when you were down, supported you and loved you unconditionally.. thats what its like to be apart of this team and this organization.
This past weekend was, to no surprise, another amazing experience. From the opening ceremonies to dancing with old friends and making some (pretty awesome) new ones, every moment was entirely heart filled. Although not every single one of us can receive the gold medal in every event, we know that we are all winners. We are winners of love, of friendships, and of support. We won acceptance as athletes and individuals and we won the love of the millions of people who support us and such an amazing organization that stands behind us. I am incredibly proud of my fourth place ribbon and bronze medal I went home with this past weekend but, I am even more thankful for the teacher who turned me down because, without that door closing, this one may have never opened. I am PROUD to be a SPECIAL OLYMPIAN.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" - Special Olympics athlete oath.
Until next time,
Lights, Camera, Action! Man, oh, man did I, along with a hundred of my closest friends feel like celebrities last night. Dances to honor those with special needs have really began to boom over the last few years. I remember first hearing about a prom for special needs adults through a great friend of mine almost three years ago. Being the girly girl that I am, I absolutely beamed at the thought of another reason to get dolled up and rock one of those poofy, sparkling dresses. Over the three years, I have had the opportunity to attend that prom along with two others near my hometown. Each time I am invited to one of these special dances, I absolutely light up. It is amazing how communities can come together to honor those who may have never been in the "spotlight" before.
From the moment we arrive, to the very last dance, we are the guests of honor, the celebrities, the stars of the show, the special ones. Weeks before the dance, we all have the opportunity to come pick out a FREE dress and accessories that are all donated by community members. Alterations are made (if necessary) so that our perfect dresses are the perfect fit. On the day of the dance, we all arrive ready to be pampered. Boys and girls alike have the opportunity to get their hair done and makeup applied before our limos arrive and we hit the red carpet.
As we exited the building and prepared to enter into our limosines, my heart raced with excitement and anticipation. I knew my mom, my sister and my grandmother would be there to cheer me on but little did I know, there would be hundreds of others right beside them. When I say, "Lights, Camera, Action", I mean it! My friend Stephanie and I stepped out of our limo to a local news lady announcing our names to the crowd. We each grabbed our "hosts" arms and strutted down the carpet. Lights were flashing, cameras were snapping and everyone in the crowd cheered us on. I only felt it necessary to bust a couple of my best dance moves to really get the crowd going.
From there we walked to get our professional pictures taken, had a bite to eat and hit the dance floor. While all of us were getting jiggy with it, our families were escorted into a special viewing area where they were served dinner and got to watch all of us on the big screen. My mom even said there were massage therapists that were giving them all free massages, HOW COOL!
As we grabbed our goodie bags and hugged our hosts goodbye, I couldn't help but reflect on this AMAZING experience. For some of us, high school wasn't or isn't the "best years of our lives". There are times where bullying and the stress of fitting in takes away from those monumental moments. Even homecomings and high school proms can become stressful because of the anxiety of not having a date or feeling like an outcast amongst the king's and queen's of the crowd. Here, each and every one of us is a king and a queen. There is no stress about fitting in, no worry about who might be judging you because of that "crazy dance move" you have on repeat, and if an emergency arises, our family is right next door! Here, arm flapping is cool, dates are whatever, and our friendships are forever. Here, everyone fits in.
As I wrap up this post I want to send a huge shoutout and thank you to the Ridge Community Church and all of the wonderful volunteers that make this special event happen. We are forever greatful for a night that we will always remember and friendships we will never forget. Thank you for allowing us to stand in the spotlight and thank you for seeing us as the beautiful individuals we are.
Until next time..
First and foremost, I want to welcome all of you to my page. Thank you for taking the time to follow me on my journey through autism and showing your interest. After graduating high school last June and going through some changes, I have had to really think about where I want to go and what I want to do with my life. Over the past 6 months or so, I have had some wonderful opportunities as well as learning experiences. I enrolled in a college program, graduated the program, participated in an internship at a elementary school, was interviewed by a public radio station, created presentations to share with parents and many more! All of these opportunities have really helped me see clearly what I am meant to do and have shaped my goals. I have always known that I wanted to help others like me and be an advocate for those with disabilities. Growing up, I have always been the one to help all of my friends when they need an extra hand and I can't think of any other way to do this than to advocate and share my journey in order to help guide others' with their own journey.
Throughout this blog, I will be keeping you up to date with all of the happenings in my own life as well as sharing informational and helpful resources and articles for parents and individuals with special needs.
Thank you again for joining me along this journey and PLEASE feel free to comment or contact me at ANY time!
Talk to you soon!