Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Special Olympics Did For This Mom

I can make you a list of special achievements that many children receive but Jaycee won't.

-School honor roll award: Nope
-Perfect attendance award: Not even close!
-Our school's Accelerated Reading Points Club: No-not sure if she even got 1 single point last year.
-Making a team that requires a try-out: I'm going to say no.

As proud parents post pictures on Facebook and rightfully receive accolades, I sit with my medically involved, developmental delayed, minimally verbal, foot brace wearing daughter. It's ok. She does what she can do. And we still find things to celebrate like going six months with no hospital admissions or when a letter in her name is written sort of legibly.

But then came Special Olympics and we had a new reason to celebrate.

Jaycee competed in Special Olympics for the first time last year. I enjoyed seeing her on a team, making the lap around the track for opening ceremonies, and seeing her compete. Jaycee's reaction of fear and crying when the gun shot at the start of her first race is something I'll never forget.

Even if she didn't win, it was a really neat for our family! Jaycee was an athlete. It was still nice to see her compete, get a ribbon, and have a new experience. Special Olympics gave her something she couldn't get anywhere else, especially in our rural area.

This year, Jaycee did well throwing the softball at the regional meet qualifying her for the state meet. We jumped at the opportunity to take her to the state competition.

I thought we would just go, watch Jaycee throw a softball for a few minutes, and make the long drive home. But, the state competition made me feel closer to Jaycee in a way I didn't expect.

I don't look like it now, but I was a runner in high school. I wasn't the best and greatest but I was average. I won a few races and qualified for the state track competition more than one time individually and on a relay team. When I went to the state competition, I knew I was going to lose. I wasn't running any times close to those extremely fast mile times. I knew and my parents knew we were pretty much going to the meet just for the experience of it all. Now, I was going to a state meet again this time as a parent.

Arriving at the state competition with Jaycee, one of the first things we did was get in the souvenir line. Jaycee picked out a pink shirt which we had her name and "track and field" printed on the back. Watching that shirt being printed, I was touched knowing my parents did that with me years ago. Here I was having a similar experience I thought I would never have with my child when I heard the words "Down syndrome" years ago.

The next day, we all put on our t-shirts supporting Jaycee and the Purple Miracles. I was a proud mom of an athlete. Anticipation grew as Jaycee was under the tent checked in and waiting for her turn. Jaycee waved at us and smiled. I found myself nervous for her. We positioned ourselves for the best viewing as she took the field. Jaycee threw as hard as she could. She did her best. And I was proud as she received her fourth place ribbon. She was proud too.

I was surprised at the emotions I felt seeing Jaycee compete and receive an award. I wanted to scream, "That's my daughter! She's awesome!" But I didn't. That would have been really weird. But, I did shed a few happy tears watching Jaycee succeed.

I felt a special connection to Jaycee that weekend. She was a state competitor just like her momma.

Special Author's Note:  I want to give credit where credit is due. Jaycee's teacher, Jennifer Tolley, initiated the Special Olympics program to our school just a couple of years ago. She took on added responsibilities when she volunteered to do this. Without Mrs. Tolley and her helpers, none of this would be possible for Jaycee and the other children on her team.

Jaycee with Mrs. Tolley and helper Amy Anselment

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