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Our First Special Olympics

on January 6, 2013

Today was an awesome day. Back in December, Alex started going to Special Olympics Snowshoe practice. He went once a week for only a few weeks and practiced a bit at school. The first time he went, he was absolutely miserable! He cried and yelled and fell down. I didn’t think we’d send him back. But this awesome teacher and aide at school said to give it another shot and promised they would practice with him. Well, about a month later, here we are at our very first Special Olympics Race. Click on the link below to see video!

Alex’s First Special Olympics

The day started early and went pretty quick. We arrived to a gym-full of athletes, family members, aides and coaches. Teams sat together and got their name/number bib to wear over their District 54 Special Olympics jackets. They were bundled up and ready to go. As I looked around and listened, I saw and heard many kids like Alex. They were jumping and flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, echoing movies, laying on the ground or glued to their iPads. There were also quite a few kids that had Downs Syndrome or some sort of mental retardation. (Hate to generalize like that, but I don’t know quite how else to say it)

I quickly met a nice boy named Mike. He introduced himself, asked my name and wanted to sit with me on the bleachers and asked if my hair was soft. It was adorable. If only the boys that I meet in everyday would treat me like that 🙂

Soon, it was time for Alex to race! They called his name and he sat in a bullpen type of waiting area in the gym. We got him bundled up and ready to go and we headed out to the field at Lamb’s Farm. A very nice (and patient) aide got Alex into his snowshoes. Did you know snowshoes aren’t shaped like tennis raquets? I didn’t 🙂 He spent a long time getting them on him so they fit just right and wouldn’t come off. And then he lined up. I was told to wait for him at the end of the 100 meter lane. The lanes were designated by orange cones and markers and the atheletes had to stay in their own lane or get disqualified. I also came to find out – which I didn’t know – that the athletes could not get any outside help from the coaches or family members. They had to complete the race ALL BY THEMSELVES. WOW!! I’m even MORE impressed with these kiddos now. I assumed they would be helped along the whole way by an aide and everyone would win something no matter what. This is not the case. The actually have some pretty stict rules like no jeans, can’t go out of the lane, can’t get any “coaching” during the race etc…

As I went to the finish line, I was already tearing up – leaving my kiddo at the starting line all by himself was a VERY prideful and scary moment. What if he didn’t move? What if he tripped an fell? What if he had a total meltdown? What if he WON!!!?

A kiddo that we knew from a before/after school program was just finishing up the race before Alex when I got down to the finish line. He was moving slow and steady, and a whole group of people, including me, were cheering him on. He stopped right at the end and decided he kinda liked the cheering. He looked around and everyone was yelling GO MAX – KEEP GOING and he just beamed. It was maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The tears began again. Soon, another athlete was walking next to him and encouraging him to finish. He finally had to move off the course to finish the race. Everyone cheering and Max looked so proud. It was really a great moment for him.

Next was Alex’s race. The starting gun went off and the 3 kids started to move. 2 of them – who were much bigger and older by the way – started RUNNING!! Alex began moving forward slow and steady. The 2 other racers finished their 100 meters in about 45 seconds or so. We all cheered them on and congraulated them as they ran. What an accomplishment for these kids!!! Alex soon appeared slow and steady as ever and was making his way towards the finish line. His grandma, Katie and I were going crazy. He had a bit of a smile as he saw us and heard the cheers from the group. With a look of pride and determination, he made his way towards me. As he came up I held open my arms and he hugged me tight. It was such a great feeling!!! For us both!!! Then, I heard everyone yelling that he had not crossed the finish line and needed to take 2 more steps, so I backed off and he finished and we hugged again. His sister was videotaping the whole time and got the best shot of him after the race. He looked SO PROUD of himself. I can’t stop smiling just thinking about it 🙂 Grandma was quick to reward Alex for his hard work with a cough drop – we didn’t even think to bring his REAL motivator – Skittles!

We went inside and waited awhile and they finally called his team up to get their awards. Out of the 3 athletes, I am proud to say he got 3RD!!! He even got a bronze medal because he finished the race. Many kids that didn’t finish only got ribbons, so I was excited that he not only raced all by himself, but finished as well. I could not be more proud!

There was another race in the afternoon that was only 50 meters and Alex had the same result. Wait time for that medal was much longer and we had a few melt downs. But all in all, the entire day was just incredible. I was so happy that my mom and Katie could be there for his first race and cheer him on. I was also incredibly proud of his sister, Katie who was patient and helpful and engaged and supportive the entire day. This is almost as big of a feat as her brother competing in the race. It was a great day for both of my kids!


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