Marysville program expands
Special Olympics creating real Monarchs
Marysville Special Olympics coordinator Robin Wright is like the fairy-godmother of Special Olympics in Marysville and she is putting together a plan to expand -- North Union is joining Marysville's Special Olympics program.
"We've never really done that due to liability issues. But we've come up with a plan; each district to join us has to have its own coordinator, be responsible for its own liability, and do its own fundraising," said Wright.
Wright took over as coordinator almost nine years ago when her son, Andrew, was old enough to participate. Andrew has Down Syndrome but doesn't let it slow him down. His favorite sport is basketball and he has a girlfriend who is also a Special Olympics athlete.
The program is designed to provide those with intellectual disabilities with year-round competition.
"The IQ is supposed to be less than 80. But for our district, if they cannot play a regular sport then we would rather be more inclusive than exclusive," said Wright.
Some sports are more popular than others.
"Bowling is our biggest and we sometimes have 25 to 35 kids. Basketball is huge. We have between 20 and 30 kids."
The athletes have a passion for their sports just like the other athletes.
"They put forth just as much effort and energy as our other school teams. They just love their competitions," said Wright.
The program has grown in numbers over the last few years.
"I would like to see more kids but the number we have now is probably good. We only play school-age teams so we have to travel or have teams come here," said Wright.
The program used to be focused on just basketball, bowling and swimming. But now it includes track and field, softball, golf and sometimes flag football.
The program raises all of its own money. No money comes from the school system but the Special Olympic parents do work concessions at Marysville High School softball and baseball games. The Fraternal Order of Eagles hosts a poker run which earns about $1,500 to $2,000 a year for the program.
Wright works anywhere from two to 15 hours a week as a paid Special Olympics coordinator.
"I get paid, but it basically pays for all my running around" on team-related errands, Wright said.
When Wright schedules athletic events, she always tries to make the kids feel like a Monarch.
"Marysville Schools is definitely getting to where we are really truly Monarchs and the kids love that."
Wright thinks Marysville Schools is already on the right track to get special needs students involved in more activities. The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidelines to make sure schools understand the legal obligation to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate alongside their peers in after-school athletics and clubs.
"I feel like Marysville has really grown in this direction," said Wright.
Being the mother of a special needs child is challenging but she says now that Andrew is 16, it is not as difficult as when he was younger. Providing for his needs as well as those of her older daughter and younger son was overwhelming at times.
"There were constant prayers and pleading in the beginning and during the bad phases. But just like any family of faith, parents are always praying for their kids," said Wright.
Wright found out Andrew would be born with Down syndrome when the results of an amniocentesis came in.
"We were eating dinner and that's how we found out. It was hard," said Wright.
Tears fill her eyes as she remembers.
"It's still sad because everybody wants a normal child. But Troy (her husband) said we know he'll never be a drug addict or a bad kid. And now he is just such a good kid. He's an amazing kid," said Wright.
"I'll never forget when we were sitting in the pediatrician's office when he was younger and Snow White was on. And she said 'someday my prince will come in' and I thought 'whose prince will he be?' And that just broke my heart," said Wright.
"But he is a prince. He's dating. He's nothing but a blessing. He's more than I ever imagined he'd be."