Wow! Just WOW! Yesterday was one of my favorite days of Sweet Pea's life!
She turned 8 in March which meant that she was eligible to participate and compete in the Special Olympics. She has been asking to do gymnastics for a couple of years and we kept telling her...when you turn 8. We are sure lucky that Special Olympics Southern California didn't decide to end gymnastics last year instead of this coming year!
The first weekend of March was her first practice with her Westside team. Her coach, Natasha, is beyond amazing and all of the volunteers are incredible! During this first practice Sweet Pea lasted about 30 minutes (out of the total 90 minute practice) before she was done. The volunteers learned that she wants to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. She had a meltdown when she got scared on the "high bar" (it is just slightly taller than Sweet Pea). She needed to hold someone's hand every time she did the balance beam. To say it was a challenging practice would be an understatement. However, they were very encouraging and asked all sorts of questions to see how they could try things differently next time to try to get her to participate longer. I told them that she didn't have a lot of endurance and so I really wasn't surprised with the 30 minutes that they got out of her, but that hopefully it would improve over time.
Well, fast forward to the end of the season, just 3 months later...Sweet Pea was participating in the entire 90 minutes of practice and doing amazing! She would stay with her group. She would wait her turn for various activities. She had learned an entire floor routine. She was having fun on the high bars (and we saw this carry over to her school playground too which was super awesome)! She would do the balance beam without support! And when she would bounce her way down the trampoline at the end of every practice, the smile on her face would light up the darkest room. To say she loved gymnastics is an understatement!
Yesterday was the culmination of a hard and challenging season when her team got to compete in the Special Olympics Southern California Summer Olympics 2017. I teared up numerous times during the event and watching all the competitors was so wonderful! Talking to a variety of volunteers that have no direct tie to a person with special needs, but they give freely of their time and energy to allow this and many similar events happen for all of those with special needs. To say we are blessed to be a part of this community is to put it lightly.
Here is a video I compiled of some of the excitement from yesterday:
Special Olympics Southern California has decided to stop offering gymnastics and switch to cheerleading. We aren't sure what sport Sweet Pea will do in 2018, but I assure you, she will be doing something! This program is so wonderful and I thank everyone who volunteered during the season, during the summer games, or donated money to Special Olympics at any point in their lives. I highly encourage everyone to find your local chapter and cheer on the athletes at their next competition!
Sweet Pea, we are all so incredibly proud of you and all that you continue to persevere through. You are a special light in all our lives and we promise to keep giving you opportunities to shine for the world to see! We love you!!!!!