Young Athletes and Families Share in the Joy of Inclusion

By Jill Hammergren

JULY 5, 2018

Moms and Dads want their children to experience joy and inclusion. And this week at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games parents, children, athletes, coaches, volunteers, spectators, families, friends, and business associates are experiencing the joy of inclusion.

During the Games in Seattle, Special Olympics Young Athletes, is helping parents and children between ages of two and seven to experience the joy of inclusion through sports.

The program introduces children with and without intellectual disabilities to several fundamentals athletic skills like running, kicking, and throwing, maintaining balance, following directions, and playing well with others.

For many parents, this is their first exposure to Special Olympics. "It's really cool to see these activities for the younger children. We hope to get my daughter, Isabella into Special Olympics when she's older, but this is great to get the siblings together and involve the families," said Bethel Ma, mother of a six-year-old named Isabella and five-year-old twins Priscilla and Giselle. "Everyone is so welcoming and they're having so much fun."

"Inclusivity is so important. Here, kids can be normal kids, they all play together, it's very inspiring," said Prisa Nakuya, mother of three-year-old Kimberly and six-year-old Keith. "We should all be inspired and make this work. We should not be separated."

Julia Alcean, was at the Young Athletes Festival with three of her children, including Sophie, age three, Olivia, age five and big sister, Kristie. "It's so great to be involved at such a young age," said Alcean. "I can't wait for Sophia to be old enough to take part in Special Olympics. This is a lot of fun."

Ma became very emotional when asked what she thought of the opportunities going on at the USA Games.

"I count this as one of my top three really big moments of joy. It's amazing. I've always prepared myself for the challenges of raising a special needs child, but I'm never prepared for these overwhelming moments," she said through tears.

The Mas, who live in Bellingham, made the two-hour drive to the Games as a fun and joyous family experience.

"I was so overjoyed that all of them have had that same opportunity. Now, with Special Olympics and Young Athletes, this is so much more. It's beyond anything I could imagine. It just means so much to be here."