JoAnn B

My mother has spent the past 9 years working with Special Olympics. But her story of love, compassion, and patience doesn’t start there. It started 20 years ago when my younger sister, Natalie, was born. You see, my sister is mentally delayed and has always required extra help; help that my mother never hesitated to give. My mother decided quickly after my sister was born that she would do whatever she could to give my sister as close to a normal life as possible. Her disability was not going to stop her from living her life to the fullest. In the 20 years since my sister was born I’ve watched my mom fight for my sister’s rights, and the rights of those like her, in the schools and community.

When our family moved to Washington State in 2000 my mother got a job as a para-educator at one of the local middle schools. My mother has always said that is when her eyes were truly opened to all the different things that were available to people with special needs, things that aren’t advertised and that most families with special needs individuals don’t know about.

It was November 2001 that my family was changed forever. That is when my sister joined Special Olympics. At first we would just go and watch my sister, but we quickly starting to get more involved. My younger brother became a unified partner (individuals who volunteer to be on the sports teams to help the handicapped athletes), my mother and I started to coach, and my dad was the chauffeur. We were involved in basketball, soccer, and softball. I even met my boyfriend of 3 years through Special Olympics. He was a volunteer on the softball team we were coaching.

When my family moved to Idaho State in August of 2006 we were sad to find out that our small town didn’t have Special Olympics teams; the athletes had to drive to the bigger cities 20-30 minutes away to participate. So what did my mother do? She took it upon herself to start up teams in our town. Now three years later my family is still in full Special Olympics mode. My brother and sister are still playing, my mom and dad are both coaching, my grandmother is in charge of fund-raising and, even though I am back in Washington State, my boyfriend and I are both coaching.

My mother is not only my hero, but the hero of the over 30 Special Olympics athletes in Rigby, ID. It is because of my mother that I know the importance of understanding those people who are “different.” I have learned not to judge people by their looks or their intellectual abilities, but rather by the size of their heart. The Special Olympics athletes that we work with are some of the nicest, smartest, most loving people I know. They are no different than you and me. They attend our schools, shop in the same stores and are just as much a part of our communities as anyone else. My mother has taught my brother, sister and I that when you help others the reward is far better than that of anything else. Most importantly she has taught us that you have to stand up for what you believe in no matter what even if it’s not the “cool” thing to do because you never know who’s life you’ll be changing for the better.

Submitted by Anonymous


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