The Special Olympics from a Special Olympian’s Point of View
He was one of the first to welcome us to our new RV Park. Here he came slowly riding his tricycle down our street, straight to our driveway. Confident, he knocked on the door of our motorhome. His compassionate eyes bore into ours as we stepped outside to meet him.
‘Hi. I’m Rocky,’ he introduced himself. “What’s your name?” he asked, extending his hand to shake. “I just wanted to stop by and welcome you to Grandma’s Grove. If you need anything or have any questions, you can ask me. I probably know the answer.’ That said, he consciously got back on his bike and rode off.
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In the following days, we would see a lot more of Rocky. He always greeted us with a smile. If he forgot our names, he would unabashedly ask. He could find common topics to talk to us about. Hailing from the state of Ohio, just like us, he is an avid and loyal fan of Bengals and Reds. He often commented on various sporting events as he was very knowledgeable and knowledgeable. He would find us and announce team wins, always with a big grin on his face. He would also admit disappointment in a team loss.
He was always helpful, and he would come over and offer to take our rubbish to the dumpster. Taught good manners and raised with lots of love and support, Rocky has the admirable ability to find a way into anyone’s heart. He participates in several park activities. His innocent determination and sense of humor are contagious… making jokes and trading “barbs” with the best of us. His competitive spirit is reflected in everything he tries. Once, he asked me how many children I have. When I replied that I had five, he exclaimed triumphantly, “Ha! We have seen, and I am the oldest!” He was looking forward to even beating me with that.
During our recent conversations, Rocky asked what kind of work I do. When I told him I was a writer, he asked me if I wanted to write about the Special Olympics in which he participates. Of course, I would. I write for Rocky because he doesn’t have the resources to do so.
I discovered that the Special Olympics evolved as competition for people with mental and developmental disabilities by researching online. Training for this competition is available all year round. Today, there are over 30 Summer and Winter Olympic sports. The International Special Olympics has more than four million athletes of all ages involved in sports training and competition in more than 170 countries.
Reading to myself about the Special Olympics was one thing, but I chose to write about the Special Olympics from Rocky’s point of view. Who better to tell about it than the person who proudly participates? I am honored and humbled to act as his spokesperson to help the public become more aware of the Special Olympic Organization, which instills teamwork, pride, and satisfaction in achieving a goal for all who try, something that we able-bodied individuals take for granted.
Rocky has been involved in the Special Olympics program since he was 7. Events he has participated in include Track and Field, Softball Throw, and Bowling. Track and Field events consist of shot put, long jump, and 50-, 100-, and 200-yard dash. Some judges determine the winners. Gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded first, second, and third. Rocky has received many trophies in these competitions… about 150, he estimated.
The event Rocky is currently participating in is Bowling. Rocky says his father taught him how to bowl and loves the sport. When I asked him how he practices bowling, he replied, “a lot!” He has a bowling coach who lets him practice two hours a day, two days a week, at a bowling alley near his house. His average, he says, is 146. His highest score is about 150. Ever Mr., he admits his girlfriend has a better bowling average than him and even threw a 300 at a Special Olympic competition in Arizona, winning first Place.
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Rocky tells excitedly that in 1995 his name was drawn to go to a Special Olympics bowling trip. His father, brother, and a friend traveled to Reno, Nevada. They stayed in a hotel and even played in a games room. Rocky bowled well enough to take third place.
The 2010 Special Olympic regional bowling event will be held in Mason, Ohio. They go to Columbus, Ohio, and spend three days in a dormitory at Ohio State University. They get shorts, socks, and a baseball cap. His team in Clermont County wears the same T-shirt he proudly wears…the “Always a Champ” badge is printed on the front.
Rocky tells me there is a Parade of Athletes ceremony being televised. The burning torch is transported from Michigan to Louisville to Cincinnati to Columbus. They say the “Pledge of Allegiance” at the opening ceremony and sing the national anthem. After the Special Olympics Competition ends, there is a party where the athletes play games, get free food, sing karaoke, and dance. There are even fireworks… fun and exciting way to end the Special Olympics.
Rocky admits he gets very nervous participating. But he’s quick to add that he loves the competition. He also lets me know that he enjoys coaching at the Special Olympics. His cousin, who has Down Syndrome and signs because he is non-verbal, is one of the participants he coaches in the Softball Throw and the 50-yard dash. Rocky explains a permanent coach, a lady coach, and a special coach. His job is to be the special coach.
Rocky is truly an inspiration to everyone who knows him. I see him living by the following mantra as he takes the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I CANNOT win, then let me be brave in the effort.” The goal is to compete in the Special Olympics regardless of the outcome.
Those involved in the Special Olympics believe in changing your attitude and changing the world. Rocky is a Special Olympian who, like others who participate, changes attitudes and changes our world for the better.
The Special Olympics is much more than the competition itself. Participants learn a skill or sport… the rules, the goal, and the teamwork. They know to follow directions and instructions as closely as possible. They practice diligently with determination and make time for the schedules their coaches have set. Lasting friendships are made with other athletes, coaches, trainers, sponsors, and supporters.
The Special Olympics program offers these athletes the opportunity to give back to their communities by remaining active in Special Olympics through volunteer services…an open position for any Special Olympian who wants to help. Preparing for the future, shaping personalities, instilling values, and teaching life lessons are all benefits of being a special Olympian. The priceless smile at the end of the match conveys a sense of pride and achievement. But most helpful are the lasting memories of a job well done!
In Bethel, Ohio, the American Legion #406 is sponsoring Rocky in his Special Olympics activities with a $100 donation. Suppose you would like to support the Special Olympics. In that case, you can do so with monetary donations by volunteering as a coach or trainer or as a spectator and encouraging these special athletes.
Laura Weaver is a freelance writer who writes on several topics. Because she believes that everyone has a story to tell, she likes to write about true life experiences. She believes that the Special Olympics is a valuable organization that benefits those who need our understanding and support.