Colorado Springs, CO – August 21, 2016 – August was a busy month for Olympians of all types – those who were in Rio and those who stayed at home – reaching out to others in their community. Two local organizations – Special Kids Special Families and Special Olympics of Colorado – teamed up this past month to introduce the youngsters attending Zach’s Place at the Laurie Hillyard Family Center to the Special Olympics and the joys of organized sports.
Both of these organizations serve vital roles in our community. Special Kids Special Families provides critical respite care services for disabled individuals, allowing parents and caregivers to pursue educational or job opportunities, secure in the knowledge that their loved ones are safely in good hands. Zach’s Place at the Laurie Hillyard Family Center serves children from 2 ½ to 18. Services for adults are available at another site, Joey’s Place. Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and Olympic competition for both children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This athletic experience encourages all participants to develop new strengths, confidence and friendships. Both organizations are committed to reaching out to the community to raise awareness of the many abilities of people with special needs.
Arriving at Zach’s Place armed with tee shirts, stickers and a winning attitude, and accompanied by a Special Olympian, Joey Franken, Jolie Nesmith, Southeast Regional Manager of Special Olympics, energized the children with stories and activities, ending in an enthusiastic round of soccer. Joey told them about his experiences as a Special Olympian. He plays softball, soccer, and basketball, and hopes to represent Special Olympics at the X Games in Aspen someday as a snowboarder.
Children with disabilities often feel their participation in sports can only be from the sidelines. They miss out not only on valuable social connections but also on the sheer joy of exercise. Visiting with someone who overcame the reluctance to get involved not only inspired the children but the staff as well. Zach’s Place held their own “Special Olympics,” featuring kickball, basketball and bowling. Medals and certificates were handed out and there were a lot of smiles all around.
With cooperation, awareness and respect – working together, Special Kids Special Families and Special Olympics make a great team!
Special Olympian, Joey Franken and Jolie Nesmith, Southeast Regional Manager of Special Olympics, talking about the Special Olympics and showing the youth at Zach’s Place some soccer skills