Sunday, June 1, 2014

Special Olympics Arizona, River Area, Yuma

I have had some great opportunities and accolades as a special educator here in Yuma.  One of those is Special Olympics.  Shortly after Judah was born, I knew that I wanted to be involved with Special Olympics at some point.  Early on, I quickly discovered that it was geared more towards teenagers and adults with special needs.  So I put the idea in the back of mind as something to re-visit down the road as Judah got older.

Right around the time of the whole teacher of the year thing, I took my class to the 2013 Young Athletes Day here in Yuma.  There's a picture-filled post about it on this blog.  I was so impressed that there was finally something for the young kids in Special Olympics.

One thing led to another and by last summer I found myself on our local Special Olympics leadership committee.  Other things started coming together and I introduced the Young Athletes program into my classroom weekly this past school year.  Eventually I found myself helping plan this years Young Athletes Day AND coaching basketball for adults.  Additionally, I found out that Judah could compete as a track & field athlete in the Arizona Summer Games.

Coaching basketball was a new experience for me.  I've coached before, but never for people with special needs.  I had a blast and learned so much.  It was a great experience to teach the little guys during the day, then coach the big guys in the evening.  They worked very hard and went undefeated the whole season.  We won gold at our regional tournament in Mojave Valley, then went on to win the gold at the State Tournament in Phoenix.  These tournaments are fairly similar to any other tournament basketball heads might be familiar with.  It was split up in different ability brackets.  Teams advanced or phased out based on wins and eliminations.  It is legitimate competition (based on ability), and my team mopped the floor.  I was very proud of them!  They earned every bit of it!

2014 Regional and State Champs.
I had a little hand in helping organize this years Young Athletes Day here in Yuma.  This is such a great experience for the little guys to get outside and be active.  Wherever you are, look up your local Special Olympics and find out how you and/or your child can get involved in this.

Judah getting down at Young Athletes Day 2014.

Young Athletes Day 2014.
Having Judah participate in track & field was great for both of us.  To my surprise, he actually enjoys running and throwing softballs.  This was obviously our first year for everything "Special Olympics" so the 2014 Arizona Summer Games was a whole new experience for us.  It was very well run and executed with amazing volunteers.  This year the summer games were held at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

Judah ran the 50 meter dash in his category and won bronze.  He came in last place in the softball throw.  You can't win them all, but we sure know what to work on for next year.

Judah on the platform to receive his first medal.

Judah gearing up for the softball throw.

The softball throw.

Needless to say, we're hooked! The excitement, energy, and camaraderie in Special Olympics is truly contagious! Catch it!

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