Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2014 Special Olympics USA Games Young Athlete Festival (Part 1)

The 2014 Special Olympics USA games kicked off in many areas around the state with various athletic events on Monday, but it was also the beginning of a very unique program called the Young Athlete Festival which is presented by Toys R Us (a founding partner of the games).  We signed Colin up to participate on Monday and Thursday and were very excited at what it would entail for BOTH Colin and Kailey. 

We know that a lot of time and hard work has been put into this Young Athlete Festival and were excited for the kids to take part in such a great event.  Let me just tell you, it's awesome!  There are so many great activities for the kids to participate in and what makes it even better are the countless volunteers who have and continue to give of their time to make sure the young athletes are having fun.  These days, any time we mention the Special Olympics, the kids are excited regardless of the activity.  It was a pretty warm day so it took Colin awhile to adjust to the heat but once he did, he rallied and really had fun with the different tents and activities. 

The event had various tents set up with a variety of themes and activities in addition to fields/courts set up for events like bike riding, soccer, and basketball.  One of the tents that was set up followed the theme of a funhouse with mirrors to start that lead into an area with an inflatable set up for bouncing.  
From there, the kids continued into the "car wash" which was an area set up with bubble wrap and a bubble machine that blew bubbles into the hallway.  
From there, the kids walked through the rest of the car wash (hanging pool noodles) to the exit.  

The next tent was set up as a rainforest with various bridges and balance beams to walk through followed by a dark area where the mission was to find the missing jewel.   Kailey spent a lot of time in this tent and enjoyed finding the jewel over and over and over again. 


The balance beam required some assistance and went through an area of dripping water which Kailey was happy to tackle, but Colin avoided. 

 The last of the 3 larger tents was the mountain region where there were again a variety of obstacles to attempt followed by a slide down the mountain into the snow.  We found that Colin was pretty hesitant at first to try some of the parts to the course but if he saw Kailey doing it, then he was much more willing to try. 


After the 3 large tents, there were a variety of smaller sport specific tents that the kids really enjoyed moving through.  Colin particularly enjoyed the throwing station and the soccer station, but tried all of the activities.



Strider Bikes also had an obstacle course set up which Kailey absolutely loved and completed more than once.  They had a variety of bikes and sizes for kids of various ages to use.   

Colin also played soccer for a short bit but I think gave up on that pretty quick because of how much hotter it was on the turf than in the rest of the areas. 

After a quick break inside, a bus full of very special guests, some members of the International Special Olympic Board of Directors arrived to tour the Young Athlete Festival and interact with some of the families that were there.  We had an idea ahead of time that it might happen but it was an even more awesome experience than I had anticipated.  The members toured the venue as the kids were participating and a lot of them really took the time to interact with the athletes themselves.  While we had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people, two that stood out the most to Chris and I were Bart Conner (Olympic Gold Medalist for gymnastics, married to Nadia Comaneci) and Tim Shriver (son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver). 

Bart Conner suggesting gymnastics for Colin as a way to really build gross motor skills.

Tim Shriver cheering on Kailey on the Strider Bike Course

SUPER excited to spend time talking with Tim Shriver.
Shortly after, it was time for the Future Stars race (they have a track set up in the parking lot!) and the Board of Directors were there at the finish line to hand out medals to the runners.  As always, Kailey was a great cheerleader for Colin (good thing we found the pom pom that I had accidentally left in the bathroom!).  This is the event that Colin REALLY loves and certainly gave it all he had!  Bart Conner was even there at the finish to give Colin his medal. 

We were so proud of Colin and his friends for running such a great race!  Colin even went right into Tim Shriver's arms for a congratulatory hug!

2014 USA games Future Stars Race from Kelli Tobin on Vimeo.


Afterwards, we had to head back inside to get our stuff and had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with the members of the Board of Directors.  This was a really great experience and you could tell they were genuinely interested in talking with Colin and us about how he was doing and our involvement in the Special Olympics.  Colin really hammed it up with them too and gave out plenty of smiles, high-fives, hand shakes and hugs. 


However, we were also extremely thankful to our special crew of people who make the Young Athlete program what it is on a regular basis.  We were able to give them a big thank you on our way out as well. 

Coach Greg

Colin's personal volunteer Katie
Miss Andrea, director of the Young Athlete Program
We also said goodbye to our friend Tori who we've gotten to spend a lot of fun times with lately!  
The Young Athlete Festival is truly a great experience and we are so excited that Colin and Kailey were both able to participate.  We are so grateful to the many HOURS of work that have gone into make it what it is from so many people.  Even more so, we are grateful for the opportunities Colin is receiving because of being a part of the Special Olympics!  More fun things to come this week!


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