Last night we had the HONOR of being invited to the 2014 Special Olympics USA games OPENING CEREMONIES to sit in one of the corporate suites with other members of the Young Athlete family. Words can not express how excited we were to have the opportunity to be a part of such a big event. It was put together to truly represent the spirit of the Special Olympics and to honor the athletes participating as champions.
For this we decided that we were only going to bring Colin because we knew that it was going to be a very busy venue so Kailey spent the afternoon with Aunt Kimmy and Matt and had a lot of her own fun. It turns out that it was a good decision because the show ended up being longer than we were expecting and I'm not sure that Kailey would have lasted as well as Colin did. Considering all that went into the afternoon and evening, Colin was REALLY good and really enjoyed himself.
This has now come up in conversation quite a few times lately with all of the great events we have participated in because of Colin, but if we were to look back just over 5 years ago, I don't think we ever in a million years expected THIS. For us, being involved in the Special Olympics of NJ has been something pretty amazing and it's been so much fun watching Colin grow through the years as he participates in various events. He has been building so many skills and accomplishing some great things. Not only that, because of the SONJ and his involvement, he is really turning into quite the "politician". He doesn't even need to be prompted to shake hands and "introduce himself" anymore and he knows where the cameras are at all times.
While we were waiting to head into the building, we were able to watch as teams from states all over the country arrived and fans cheered them on as they made their way into the arena. These athletes are so proud of what they do and why they are here. I found myself getting choked up every time I watched another team walk by and as strangers stopped to shake hands and give high-fives.
The arena was set up in a way to accommodate the 4,000+ athletes, coaches and families with a center stage where many people gave inspirational speeches and performances.
Oh, and the arena is the home of my favorite hockey team, the NJ Devils, so that was pretty neat too!
To start the night off, a Billy Joel band played a variety of his songs which Colin REALLY enjoyed. He put on quite a show for all of the people around us as they enjoyed watching him play the various instruments the band played. He only got nervous just as they were about to start and it got dark in there, but once he heard the music he was ready to go.
Two special Olympic athletes presented all of the delegations from states around the country and it was really neat to watch them parade in to the arena. Team NJ welcomed all of the athletes at their entrances and there was lots of cheering for all athletes.
While it took almost an hour for all of the athletes to parade in, Colin managed to cheer the entire time. When team NJ entered the arena, the crowd erupted and it was quite awesome!
There were many highlights from the evening including performances, speeches from various celebrities, parents, unified athletes, and special Olympians themselves, the flag raising, and the lighting of the cauldron.
It was a fabulous way to spend the night celebrating our own Special Olympian and made me feel hopeful, excited, and inspired for what Colin's future has in store for him. Great things come when you BELIEVE...