School Partnership Program Testimonial
A letter from a parent who was overcome with joy after watching her son compete in the Spring 2010 Lake Elsinore Unified School District School Games.
My name is Vanessa Walters. I'm the proud mother of five boys who attend school in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District. My two oldest sons' are Seth and Zackariah, who go to Terra Cotta Middle School. My other three are Tucker, Turner, and Tanner who go to Rice Canyon Elementary School.
The reason I'm writing to you is to say "Thank You." My second son, named Zackariah, is autistic. A while back, he came home with a flyer telling about the planned track and field day and a form to fill out if he waned to participate in it. He wanted to so we filled it out for him.
Bright and early on Friday the 21st of May, I was trying to get all my other boys off to school and hoping I wouldn't be late to the high school. As I turned the corner to go into the high school, I began to see all of these posters saying "Special Olympics" and people directing traffic. I thought, "Wow, there sure are a lot of buses here."
I still wasn't getting it! I had thought that just a few kids would be participating and had no idea what was really going on. As I walked into the stadium, I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I had never been to a real Special Olympics event before. My heart was so touched that I lost it then and there. I was trying so hard to hold back my tears, I was biting my quivering lips but it didn't work. I bawled like a baby as I continued to walk to the fan section – not caring anymore what people might be thinking of me. I was so overcome with amazement at all of the effort that went into this event, from the Olympic rings and the band to the officers and the Olympic torch.
As a parent of an autistic child, we've become use to being humiliated, to the looks, and to the ugly comments that can be so hurtful not only to them but to us as the parents. You just get used to it and try to ignore them.
As I was sitting in my seat I felt so ashamed that I had ever thought our life with an autistic son was really hard to endure some days. Some of the children there were obviously very handicapped, and my heart was just broken for them and for their parents. But as the day progressed, the feelings I felt began to change. I still felt heartbroken over their handicap, but as the looks on their faces just glowed with excitement and pride I found myself realizing that to them it was the same as with my own son. They may not walk, talk, or even run like other kids do, but they're still important and special in their own way.
My emotions were like a rollercoaster, from heartbroken to unspeakable joy and just when I thought I had it all together…I'd loose it again! Sometimes all it took was a look from one of the kids' faces as they would try their hardest to finish. But this time my tears were of joy as I smiled and cheered and screamed, "You can do this," over and over again. It's kind of funny looking back now. A woman asked me how many kids I had so I told her I have five boys. She just smiled and then looked kind of puzzled when I told her I only had "one" in the Olympics!!!
I am truly thankful I was able to come and participate in such a beautiful day! It was obvious that a great amount of time, money, and effort went into this event and I can't say thank you enough to everyone that was a part of this.
I was especially impressed with all of the student volunteers. It just really touched my heart to see these young adults calm the nerves of some of the athletes by holding their hands or talking gently to them or guiding them to where they needed to go. As they cheered endlessly for each and every child, it just made my heart so full of joy to be able to see and hear such compassion and encouragement coming from these young adults to these children who more often than not get ridiculed everyday of their life. So please tell them that their kindness and unselfishness didn't go unnoticed and that it will never be forgotten.
I'm really hoping this will be an annual event in Lake Elsinore. It was awesome!!! After Zackariah and I got through telling everything that had happened that day to my husband and four other sons, they were as disappointed as we were that they hadn't been there to share in all the fun and excitement – especially when Zackariah showed them his bronze medal he had won in the 400-meters race! But, next year, we all plan on going.
Again, I just want to say thank you to each and every one of you who was a part of this awesome event. Now, I really understand why they call it the Special Olympics.
With heartfelt sincerity,