Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Special Olympics State Games- More then just sports...

In life,  it can be all too easy to get caught up in the everyday goings on, the routine things.  Life can be tough... and that's why it's so important to look for the silver lining and learn from others.  The Special Olympics State Games in Terre Haute, Indiana on June 2nd, 2012 at Indiana State University, was an event that did just that!  Disabilities disappear and athletes are refreshed and revived!   Sports provide the starting line of self improvement, confidence, determination and discipline.  What makes the Special Olympics State Games such a feel good event in addition to sports, is the people behind the scenes - people who give of their time, energy and resources to make sure that a CAN DO spirit lives at these games every year!  One of the highlights for me is hearing what makes the athletes proud to be a Special Olympian! Their faces glow!!
President/CEO Mike Furnish and Board Chairman Buzz Lail

Another highlight is talking to President/CEO Mike Furnish (and its not just because he told me this year that talking to me was the best 15 minutes he has :) Mike is one of the most dedicated people I have seen directing an organization like this!  His heart and soul show on his sleeve when he talks about Special Olympics!  This year, along with Mike, I met a new friend, Buzz Lail - Special Olympics board chairman.  Buzz is a dedicated amateur athlete who has competed in triathlons and many more sports.  And when I asked Buzz what athletes take for granted sometimes, he didn't hesitate to say with confidence, "The ability to do it tomorrow.  When I was younger, I didn't understand that I would have limitations and that they would change over time.  I knew it, but didn't understand it.  Our athletes come into these games with apparent limitations, and they know that those limitations will change over time,  just like the rest of us, but they face their limitations bravely".   I liked Buzz the second we started the interview because Buzz sees every athlete as a talent in their events, and just as good an athlete as he is.....the SAME.....Thank you Buzz....you warmed my heart by your comments and your commitment to Special Olympics!!

Interviewing Olympic Runner, Andrew Peterson 
Special Olympics Indiana strives to provide, what Mike says is, "a you can atmosphere" which translates into a person's mindset and attitude, along with a feeling of support which allows the disability to disappear and the person and who they really are to shine through - the transformation is unbelievable!  Thank you Mike for inviting me to experience the transformation of people's lives that is known as Special Olympics!!

Buzz said it best: " Some sports may get your body or your feet, but Special Olympics gets your heart....it gets all of you."  I invite you to experience Special Olympics for yourself....you will be glad you did....I'm sure glad I experienced it....it always brings a smile to my heart!

For more information on Special Olympics and Special Olympics Indiana go to: www.soindiana.org

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mom: Thank you for being YOU! Thank you for seeing beyond the disability!

When a woman gets pregnant with her first child, there is always excitement that radiates from her, they call it the "pregnancy glow".  Happiness and joy fill the hearts of the parents-to-be, thinking of all the possibilities that will be opened to their little one as he or she grows.  Everything will be just perfect!  As a mom especially, you want nothing to be wrong with your child.  No one wants their child to struggle. They would rather take on the struggle themselves, rather than their child.

On May 8, 2012,  I interviewed Kerry Fletcher and Kathleen McAllen, two moms who have kids with disabilities. This interview was one of the most touching and emotional interviews I have done! And I thank both of these ladies so much for opening up their hearts and giving us a view into the joys of raising a child with special needs, along with the heartbreak of the diagnosis and the grief of their child having to deal with the lifelong struggle that they never asked for.  I admired both Kerry and Kathleen's attitudes when they talked about that first diagnosis.  Kerry looked at it this way : "We had been seeing delays for a while before we got the diagnosis, so the diagnosis was the cherry on top.  We knew why and we had answers so then we knew what direction to go."  When I asked Kerry how she sees the future for her kids, she said : "That's why we have the IEP set up at school to direct them.  We don't know what that future will look like yet, but we try to look at all angles and are hopeful that they will be independent and have jobs"

Kathleen said: "My husband and I are both practical people, and so with the diagnosis, we thought, ok, we're not crazy...this is real..now we have something to work with."  In the same breath, both moms agreed that there is a grieving of the loss of what you think is going to be.  It is a process for not only moms, but dads and siblings and even other family members who live far away. Kathleen gave a word of encouragement to people who make the extra effort to get to know those who have disabilities: "Make that extra effort to get to know them, you will get more than you give!"

The diagnosis of your child with a disability is not the end of the world.  It's the beginning of a new world... one to get used to and to be informed about.  Kathleen and Kerry have been through all the uncertainty, but have come out on the other side....and they hope that their story helps others to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This interview also hit home for me.  My mom has been my cheerleader and advocate for many years now.  She has helped me through the ups and down of my teenage years into adulthood, coping with the shadow of my disability. The things she said and did allowed me to put the challenges aside and view these opportunities as a chance to grow and flourish and she was by my side through it all!! Mom: THANK YOU!!

Thank you to all the moms out there who care so deeply for children with special needs! Your love is such a gift to us! "A Mother's love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible"-Unknown Author

For more information on chapters of the Best Buddies program, go to: www.bestbuddies.org to find a chapter in the state you live in.  For information locally, in the Indianapolis area, go to: www.bestbuddiesindiana.org

Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from my Window, an internet podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana