(This was posted over a year ago during the 2009 Montana Special Olympics)
The Special Olympics Montana State Games has taken over Bozeman with more energy than a Cat-Griz football game!
Wednesday night was the kick off as I helped join volunteers in our community feed over 1500 athletes in under 2 hours before the opening ceremonies. What I admire most about these athletes are the attitudes and optimism.
Here are a few examples:
Spaghetti Dinner - "Please tell the cook this is the best spaghetti I have ever had." There wasn't one complaint with 1500 plates! All I saw were smiles, athletes thanking everyone, and people enjoying an evening with family, friends, and coaches.
Power Lifting - My staff helped our strength coaches with the power lifting on Thursday. This included the bench, squat, and dead lift. Here were some routines:
Patrick - INTENSE, he hit his lift and then yelled "WOOOOO!!!!" to the crowd with clenching and pumping his fists.
Glenn - HAM, Sumo-stomp approach before signaling the crowd to cheer him on.
Aaron - GRIZ all the way, with his maroon uniform. I have to admit he was the first Griz to ever win me over while high-fiving us.
Vivian - FOCUSED, she would throw her dead lift down and then step right over it and walk off.
Heather - TOUGH, she would point to her coach, stare down the weights and then smash it.
Sportsmanship - They compete AND cheer on their competitors. I have never seen so many hugs and support in one room. Jacob would hug competitors before he would lift. Then he would hug athletes after they lifted. Ryan had arms as cut as Sylvester Stalone and would high five every judge near him. They were so supportive of each other that our judges, particularly Andrea, began clapping after they completed their lift. How often do you see a judge cheering?
Coaches - These coaches know their athletes better than anyone. They would come to our table after the first lift to tell us how much weight he or she would lift next. I was thinking, are you sure they should do that much? The athlete would squat without strain and I realized they know their athletes better than I do. The coaches challenged their athletes like any other coach would.
Medal Presentation - This was the best part of the day. The athletes would walk up, receive a bronze, silver, or gold, but then strike their POSE. Not one athlete missed the opportunity to be in the spotlight. Whether they skipped, sprinted, or strutted to the podium, we all enjoyed every minute of it.
Our Bozeman Police Department helped present the medals, but one officer may not know that Aaron added rabbit ears behind his head for the picture. Let me also tell you to look out Buzz... He dead lifted over 400 pounds. WOW!
My nephew Tyler is now 15 years old and has Down Syndrome. I remember when he was born and my dad telling me why we call these children "special." He said they understand how to appreciate and live life to its fullest whereas the rest of us often make that a challenge.
We can certainly learn a lot from their spirit, optimism, and attitudes. What a "special" week for me. I got more out of it than what I was able to give! Great job to all of our athletes this week!