Sunday, June 9, 2019

I Thought She Couldn't, She Did

After I witnessed Field Day Friday, I began to question myself once again about today's Special Olympics Young Athletes program in Ewing, New Jersey. After all thousands of volunteers have worked tirelessly for the entire year to put together the Summer Games and I was certain that my child would or could ruin them in an instant.

I jumped onto Facebook and quickly posted to a private group for the Young Athletes. Within seconds, there were responses and minutes, a phone call. I didn't need to reinvent the wheel just listen to another parent who had been there, done that and learn from their lessons. It seemed like a lot and though I felt a little overwhelmed, I figured we'd give it the old college try.

At first glance, when her eyes popped open this morning I wondered if we should go but as we snuggled and I suggested that there would be running and riding of bikes, she was all in. Not knowing what to expect we hurried our kids into the car, early and began the trek South to the beautiful campus of TCNJ.

What met us there was far beyond what I could have ever imagined. From the flawless directions to the many volunteers, the day went along seamlessly. We chose to have a volunteer accompany our family and poor sweet Sophia probably had no idea what she was getting into. Still, she persisted and we even got another volunteer when her family left making it Team Serrie, 9.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by staff who understood it all and I had a personal hug from Andrea Moore, the woman behind the Young Athletes. We have never found a program here in Warren County so meeting her made the experience even better. As she explained the entire experience, Seraphina gorged on the numerous snacks I packed to keep her happy and satiated.

Once the gates were open and volunteers briefed we began our trek inside the softball field. There was so much to see and do. It was apparent Seraphina had two favorites, the bubbles and the bikes. It was a special place as we all stood in solidarity knowing we loved someone with extra needs. We worked together to keep our children waiting when necessary and trying to their best capability. Seraphina even gave us all a good laugh when she found a handsome college student, ran up and kissed his derriere. If that isn't love, I am not sure what is.

After she had her fill playing, we headed to the Shop Rite tent, where Boy Scouts were available to assist with Wakefern and provide meals for all attendees. From the burgers to dogs, chips to ice cream it was all available for everyone. While Serrie wasn't a fan of the cooked food, I am certain she got her dairy quota for the day scoring four mini-cups of Turkey Hill Ice Cream.

The day culminated with the Young Athletes Future Stars Race and the Strider Bike Race which was so well organized there was little waiting and it was accessible to ALL athletes in attendance. As the Troopers stood in uniform adorning our little loves with medals, parents, spectators and volunteers couldn't help but smile.

I have never experienced Special Olympics. I had never even considered attending prior to our sweet angel leading us on this journey but today I knocked something off my bucket list that I never knew I needed. As I reflect on the day, the numerous individuals who worked to support our children and the opportunities moving forward, I can't help but think we were blessed to welcome Seraphina for our own because I wasn't sure what to do with my life, and now, I understand.

A huge thank you to Andrea Moore, NJ Special Olympics and all who supported us today. If you have yet to experience Special Olympics in some capacity, put it on your bucket list...for me, its going back on in another capacity. I just don't know what.

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