This was our second year participating in the Special Olympics. It still seems to be Gess' favorite time of the year. She had been looking forward to this since we went last year. Being homeschoolers, I was not sure how to go about getting involved as the youth programs are usually handled within the school system. However, Special Olympics is not a public school program and therefore homeschool children are invited to participate.
To find a Special Olympics team in your area you can go to the Special Olympics Website's Find a Program Near You page. That will link you to your statewide organization. That's how I found Special Olympics Kansas. From there you should look for a link to hook you up with your local area. The page for that in Kansas is Find a Local Program.
Through the program we have 2 events a year. Our regional area has it's own Special Olympics events. Bowling is in the fall and the spring track and field is in April. Then we head to the statewide competition the first weekend in June. Last year we met the team up there, but this year they let Gess and I ride the bus. She was really excited because this was her first time on a school bus.
We then got a hotel room. While the athletes can go on their own and stay with their coaches and other assistants, I am not ready to send my 9 year old off with people she hardly knows. They are awesome folks, don't get me wrong, but since she only sees them at practices and events once a year, I think it's best she hangs with us for awhile in the "big city." When we got off the bus we settled into the hotel room and relaxed waiting for the opening ceremonies.
The opening ceremonies are really great. The teams to get to march on the field and hear the cheers and know that those are for them. The thing I love most about the Special Olympics is not that my daughter has a chance to win a medal, but that she has a chance to be celebrated. I love that the people there appreciate that ALL life is sacred and worthwhile. The field march was especially exciting this time because Gess got to help hold the banner for the team.
Then they head to the bleachers and get ready for some fun. There are announcements and recognition of special athletes. There is also some music and good times.
Gess enjoys it until the end when they have the most awesome fireworks display. The noise is just too much for her so we went back to the bus. While it was hot waiting in the bus, I found that inside the safety and shelter of the vehicle she really enjoyed watching the fireworks. That will remain our plan B from now on!
The next day is filled with events. She competed in the standing long jump and got a bronze medal.
Then it was the 50 meter dash for which we had a close race in which she took the silver.
During her down time they have all sorts of games to play, and they also had a petting zoo. Each time you do an activity they punch your card and in the end you get a prize. After some games we headed out to her last event of the day, the ball throw. She picked up another bronze there. Here she is sporting all three medals.
That night there is a special dinner and a dance. Gess has a good time at that, but can only handle the loud music and crowd for so long, especially after a hot and active day! She sure needed some rest.
The final day is the relay race. She was so excited and kept saying she was going to "run like the wind" (because someone told her to do just that). Her team did really well and took the silver. All in all it was an incredible weekend and I am so very proud of my athlete! I know she will be talking about it until next year!