Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 for 21: The Special Olympics of NJ (2)

One of the things that we have been really proud to become a part of is the Special Olympics of New Jersey.  Shortly after Colin was born and his diagnosis was confirmed, our friend Jorie started a team in Colin's honor for the annual Polar Bear Plunge (Team CAT Crew), where people jump in the Atlantic Ocean mid-winter after raising money for the Special Olympics.  Our goal at the time was to help raise as much money as we could for the organization, which provides sports training for children and adults with developmental disabilities.  We never could have expected the turnout we had gotten for our team, nor the amount of money we raised, or where it would lead us for Colin and his involvement.  

By the time the plunge hit the first year, we had already begun to find our way in the new world we were in with Colin having Down Syndrome, so it was really special to us to have done so well.  After the plunge, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the Special Olympics facility where we met so many of the great people that work there and it really just opened so many doors for Colin.  


In the subsequent years that followed, our expectations have been exceeded because of the generosity of so many friends, family members, and people that we have never even met!  


A few months before our plunge last year (just under a year ago), Colin participated in his first ever, Special Olympics of NJ event, which happened to be the fall festival.  I was really unsure of what to expect since Colin wasn't even walking yet (I still can't get over that Colin hasn't even been walking for a year yet!), but he had a great time and it was where he started his friendship with Greg, the physical therapist involved in the Young Athlete Program.

Colin became involved regularly in the Young Athlete Program and in that span of time, so many of his skills started to bloom and take off.  He couldn't wait to go and play "baksetball".  Because of that first event he participated in, we were invited to the annual awards dinner and were greatly surprised when some of Colin's pictures were included in the final montage of the evening.  

This past plunge was our biggest and best yet because we raised a significant amount of money and our team had grown with the addition of so many new members.  How awesome!

Through the Special Olympics of NJ, we are given a place where Colin can practice the skills he is working so hard to acquire so that when he is ready, he can also participate with his typical peers in those same sports that he loves.  We have also been given the opportunity to meet so many other families and athletes through events like minor league baseball games and the Summer games.

Last year was our first experience with the summer games and to say it was an emotional experience would be an understatement.  It was truly a remarkable experience and Chris and I couldn't have been more proud than to watch Colin run down the track in his very own race.  

If you have donated to the Special Olympics before, these are the experiences that have been so rewarding for our family that you have allowed for us.  

Each year that we have participated, the polar bear plunge has raised a remarkable minimum of $1 million dollars for all of our athletes.  We feel so honored to help raise money for the very same programs that our son proudly participates in.  

If you are interested in joining our team CAT Crew this year, please click this link to join!  We would love to have you!  

For more information on the NJ chapter of the Special Olympics, please click here.  This includes programs like the Young Athlete Program that Colin has participated in.  If you are in another state, click here for ways that you can find a Special Olympics program in your area!

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