I’d like to briefly share a powerful email I received from Special Olympics Alaska CEO Jim Balamaci. Perhaps we all might send our thanks in a special way to Gilleon and his mom —for their enormous grit in persevering through the struggle and injustice and even more, for their courage in sharing with us their heart.
This year, for the first time in Alaska our Special Olympics Unified School Track Program was fully integrated with their high school track team. Through our partnership with the Alaska Schools Activities Association our Unified statewide school teams trained and competed on the school track team. In addition, our high school athletes had to meet all of the requirements to qualify for the high school state finals. Below is a letter we received from a parent today whose son made it to the state high school finals.
My son Gilleon just had the best weekend of his life. For the first time he didn’t mind having Autism, but more important he felt good about himself. He called me from the meet and said “I feel spectacular”.
For the past three years my son has been an angry suicidal young man. I have been so afraid of losing him. He is high enough functioning he is usually the odd man out, not fitting into any group. Worst part is he knows it. Bullied for most of his school career he does not trust people, especially teachers and students. When I made him go out for Special Olympics track, I never dreamed he would have this opportunity. I just prayed that with a bit of pushing from me and patience from the coaches he would get to feel a bit of accomplishment. I wanted him to find success in his efforts, feel good about himself even if just for a moment.
The hardest thing to do was send him to the meet this weekend alone. But he wanted to be a part of the team, he wanted to be like everyone else. I know Gill isn’t like everyone else, so does he. But this weekend, that was ok. He had autism and was part of the team, it didn’t have to be either or. He didn’t just accomplish, he succeeded. This is the happiest I have seen him in a very long time. The best thing aside from his smile to come from these past few weeks, Gill has not talked about hating himself. That self loathing script he has been reciting for 3 years has been silenced. That is a gift I can never repay.
Please forward to all the Special Olympics Unified coaches, my heartfelt thank you. What you may not realize, is you may have helped save his life. We have been making changes, adding meds, therapies you name it to try and bringing him back from this ledge he has been on. But the boost he has gotten from being accepted as part of your team, feeling accepted and supported, and winning… all the meds and therapies have not been able to accomplish that.
From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.