Our family’s involvement with Special Olympics began when Nathan was only thirteen days old, when Mr. Andi was invited to participate in the Torch Run by friends of his in local law enforcement. The following year, he pushed Nathan in his jogging stroller in the run, and the year after that, he carried him. Fast forward to 2016 and Nathan became a Special Olympics athlete.
Last year, I had mixed feelings about the event. This year? I was gung-ho.
Nathan’s teacher asked for and was granted permission to take the whole class on a field trip to watch. Although the rest of the school made posters for the sendoff parade for all of the school’s athletes (video at the link), Nathan’s made giant signs just for him and proudly held them at the sendoff parade and then again from the stands at the stadium (I wish I could show you their precious faces, not just the posters, but this week is Spring Break so I wasn’t able to get permission from their parents before this post was published).
Two parades in one morning? Nathan was all about it. As his school’s team paraded in front of the stands, he waved (and waved and waved and waved…)
His aide, Miss Allison, wasn’t able to come this year (other than with the class), but he had Mrs. Leazott, his resource teacher, to keep him in check (note that she’s holding his wrist, not his hand – a handy tip if you are ever tasked with watching Nathan in a public place).
His first event was the tennis ball throw. He threw with enthusiasm once again.
And as much as the day is about sports and competition, it’s also about fun, and Mr. Andi was happy to oblige him with a little silliness.
In the tennis ball throw, he got a first place ribbon, and he posed proudly atop the medal stand for a photo…
…and one photo ONLY. It was way more fun to jump off the medal stand than it was to pose on it.
Sarah Kate’s friend Jeanne was there again, just like last year, and Nathan loves Jeanne!
As a peer helper, Jeanne was excused from school for Special Olympics. Not so these boys:
Or these girls:
Once again, Nathan had his own personal cheerleaders – boys and girls whose parents let them skip school to come out and support Nathan. Another friend of mine’s sixteen-year-old son told his mom that he didn’t care if his absence was unexcused and drove himself to the stadium to support Special Olympics. My friend’s son knows Nathan, but he didn’t come out to see my son. He is committed to supporting kids with physical and intellectual disabilities – so much so that when he was in middle school, an award was created in his honor, recognizing other students with a heart for serving students with special needs.
THIS IS WHAT INCLUSION CAN DO, MY FRIENDS.
Nathan’s second event was the 25-yard dash, and despite the massive fail last year in which four adults couldn’t manage to get Nathan to his event on time, this year he…once again missed his heat. I think next year we just need to camp out a half hour before he’s supposed to run and hope for the best.
He got a first place blue ribbon this time, despite not being remotely close to first place. Last year he got a second place ribbon for being last in the wrong heat; I guess maybe he got upgraded this time since we didn’t miss it by as much? I have no idea.
He was over the whole medal stand thing after the race and ran instead to jump on the back of the police golf cart that he’d been watching ride around the stadium all day. They took him for a ride with the lights flashing and that was probably the best part of his day.
Special Olympics has come a long way since it began in Eunice Shriver’s backyard, but we’ve come a long way, as well. Nathan isn’t that tiny “Future Olympian” anymore, and I love the Special Olympics…no qualifiers needed.