I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”
This is the Special Olympics Athlete Oath. Last week, I was sitting amongst 2000 athletes and I heard them recite this oath prior to the opening of the Special Olympics Summer Games at UW Stevens Point. My son qualified in the Softball Throw and the 100 meter run.
This was my first State games. It was also a bit of a family vacation, so we stayed in a hotel as opposed to the dorms. I guess I really didn’t know what to expect. We arrived and right away we found Team Milwaukee going to dinner, so we joined our teammates. After dinner we lined up for the parade of athletes, this is the beginning of the opening ceremonies.
I was able to walk with the team onto the field. What an overwhelming feeling. Law Enforcement and volunteers lining the track and offering so much encouragement to the athletes and thanking the coaches for their time. Hearing the athletes recite the oath. The raising of the Flag and singing of the National Anthem. Seeing law enforcement from all over the State come into the stadium with the torch. Finally the lighting of the cauldron.
While the events are the headline of the weekend, so much more goes on for the athletes and supporters. These games included the Healthy Athletes Initiative. As any athlete will tell you, their health and fitness is key to their success. The following groups had resources available:
Delta Dental offered oral health screenings. These screenings ranged from education to the importance of mouth guards to preventative products and referral advice for follow up.
Lions Club offered vision and eye health tests. There were full screenings and eyewear and more referral advice for follow up.
Health Promotion offered blood pressure and bone density screenings. Stressed the importance of healthy eating habits and sun safety.
UW Audiology Clinic offered external ear canal inspection as wells as various screenings. They also provided referrals for further testing if needed for various problems or the management of hearing issues.
At each of these 4 offerings, there was always a line. We made it through 2 of the 4, based on Tyler’s events. But I thought that this was great; make the services available and accessible to those who could use it most.
We had on and off rain on Friday. But when we checked in with the team coach, Team Milwaukee had already received their first of many Gold Medals. The excitement was just over whelming. As we waited for Tyler’s lone event on Friday, the softball throw, many of his teammates were around to cheer him on. Tyler was fortunate enough to earn a Bronze medal.
After the events of Friday, they hold a dance for the athletes. In all of my life, I have never seen so many people on one dance floor. Each athlete was having a great time. I was seeing athletes that I know from other parts of my life, not affiliated with Special Olympics, having a great time. If I didn’t know any better, I would think they were different individuals. These athletes become so empowered at this entire event, not just the dance. I saw kids singing along with the DJ and dancing the latest steps. It was really a lot of fun.
When we came back Saturday morning for the 100 Meter run, we saw Tyler’s team stretching. These older athletes called Tyler by name for him to join them in stretching. Tyler is one of the younger athletes on Team Milwaukee, but his teammates all know him by name. I believe that this is what empowers Tyler, being a part of the team.
When Tyler’s race came up, these same athletes made a point to line the fence and cheer him on. I could sense that as Tyler crossed the finish line, he could hear his teammates. They were right there for him. Tyler worked hard and came away with the Gold Medal in the 100M.
But it is not about the medals. In talking with some of the athletes, they just enjoy being with their teammates away from home. It is about having fun. Winning is not the end all be all as it is in many other competitions. I could sense from the athletes, that winning was secondary to giving it their best effort.
Thank you to everybody who gives of their time to make this event special.
If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of these events, I would strongly encourage you to do so. It takes you back to the reason many participate in athletics, because they want to have fun.