More in News
Area represented at Special Olympics Summer Games
REGION -- From a presidential faux pas to the life’s end of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Olympics has permeated the national media, calling attention to society’s perceptions about people with challenges.
On one end, President Barrack Obama apologized for his unfortunate comment, which likened poor bowling skills to the skills of Special Olympics athletes and simultaneously revealed a common stereotype that to be “special” is not only “less than,” but comic. Then on the other end of the spectrum there is the outlook of an equally influential political family, captured by Shriver’s famous motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
On June 10, 2011, seven athletes from the Emma R Foundation chose the side of bravery and ventured to Orono, Maine for the state-wide Summer Games. Why is this brave?
It takes courage to go somewhere new, to spend a weekend in a strange place, to spend endless hours under a hot sun waiting, and then the next nervous minutes straining toward a finish, a distance, an outcome against countless others who, too, want the gold, want recognition, want to be seen as able by the collective many that have viewed them as not.
For Team Emma R, Special Olympics is about more than just showing up. Emma R athletes train twice a week year round working out in the gym and building their athletic abilities. Through the dedication of founder Sandra Hebert, who also serves as Oxford County coordinator for Special Olympics Maine, Emma R participants have the opportunity to engage in skiing, snowshoeing, cross country, swimming, bowling, track and field and bocce.
Emma R took home 21 medals: 15 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze at the summer games this year. Hebert is soon expanding the program to include tennis and golf.
When Darren Buker of Newry joined the Emma R Foundation a little over a year ago, he shared with Hebert his dream to be able to walk and be like other people. He has been attending the gym twice a week ever since, working out, building muscles, swimming and improving his balance.
Once primarily confined to a wheelchair, through persistent effort and encouragement, he now is able to walk short distances. And though he proudly displayed a gold medal for the softball throw and a bronze for the 25 meter wheelchair race, his favorite part of the games, he says, is “being with all my friends.”
At 51 years of age, Greg Myles of Mexico continues to demonstrate ability, not disability. On Saturday, he dazzled onlookers with two gold medals in the 25-meter walk and the softball throw. During an interview, he gestured enthusiastically with one hand, saying “schoom” to indicate the speed he exited the start line.
Patty Kidder of Rumford won a gold for the softball throw and a bronze for the 25-meter walk. Ross Bean of Bethel took home two silver medals for the 100 and 200 meter dash, and a gold in the softball throw. Christine Morin, one of the first athletes to represent Maine in the national games held in Michigan, continues to participate year after year, earning a 4th place in the softball throw on Saturday.
In a stunning display of strength, Dixfield’s Corey Hebert hurled his way to gold in shot put.
Emma R’s bocce team remains undefeated, and earned a gold in the double-elimination tournament.
Admittedly nervous for her events, Tanya Scott of Mexico still managed to earn a gold medal in the softball throw and a silver medal for the 50 meter walk. For Scott, Special Olympics means more than victory, competition and year-round training. Her favorite part of the weekend is the dance, which she described as: “packed with people, music—it’s a blast!”
Asked how she felt crossing the finish line, her words resonate with the sentiments of many athletes: “It gave me a good feeling in the heart.”