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Students with disabilities find enjoyment in Special Olympic events


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Special Olympic student Malia Cherry enjoys kyaking with her dad Frank Cherry during a trial run in the high school natatorium. She is partially blind but loves the sport. (Cody Rogers photo)

It is kyaking practice time for the special Olympics team at the natatorium. The Kyaks are in the pool ready to go and former student Malia Cherry slowly climbs into the front of her kayak carefully while her father, Frank Cherry steadies her harm for departure. Malia swiftly rows her way from one end of the pool to the other like a natural never thinking about the fact that she is partially blind, mentally retarded, cannot speak, and has no social skills. She just wants to go for the gold medal later this year.

“Special Olympics is a very beneficial group for her,” Malia’s mother, Charlotte Cherry said. “It helps her meet new people and also experience things she would not experience otherwise”

After winning a silver medal in the Special Olympics Kayaks division a year ago, Malia and her father are pumped for this year’s competition. Special Olympics Instructor Sharon Presley said Special Olympics is is an organization that provides year around sports training for kids with intellectual disabilities and helps the students physically and socially. .

“As a young lady until now I have always enjoyed Special Olympics,” Presley said. “The wide variety of activities these kids can do with their families and volunteers is beneficial in so many aspects.”

Presley said to be a Special Olympics Athlete, a person needs patience, teamwork, great sportsmanship.

“And that is what we are doing with the Kayaking and Sailing,” Presley said. “We are building these skills in our students.”

Pressley admits that she loves to see the smiles on the faces of the students as they participate in the events. Senior Ashley Gonzales participated in various events at school and said she looks forward to the kyaking and other events Special Olympics offers.

“I really enjoy kayaking with my friends,” Gonzales said. “I do all the activities in Special Olympics and I love them all.”

Gonzales said that she is also involved on the Sparkler Cheerleading team that was started last year and she really likes how Special Olympics helps her stay active and meet new people.

“I like hanging out with friends and having a good time when we meet for practice,” Gonzolaz said. “Cheering each other on is what I like to do.”

Presley said there are many outside volunteers that help Special Olympics including some family and volunteers from out of state.

“I appreciate how people that I don’t even know help us give these students a great experience,” Presley said. “They do not even have to help but they do.”

Special Olympics volunteer, Ryan Grego said he has been helping Presley coach for two years now and really enjoys what he does.

“I like kids and sports,” Grego said. “So this is a great combination for me.”

Grego said he is happy he doesn’t have to be a former pro or college athlete to be a Special Olympics coach.

“I really like how I can enjoy playing with kids and not have to struggle preparing professional tricks to show them,” Grego said.

Grego said he believes that these athletes don’t need much help, because most of them already have athletic talent.

“These kids are really amazing,” Grego said. “Some are even better than me when it comes to sports.”

Students also participate in sailing contest for which they practice every week at Corinthian Sailing Club at White Rock Lake. Corinthian Sailing Educator, Steve Comen has been working with Special Olympics for 13 years.

“I really enjoy teaching these kids,” Comen said.

Comen said he took notice right off of senior special olympic sailer Robert Synders’ natural talent with a laser sail.

“I believe he would be the first single handed Special Olympics sailor have on our team,” Comen said. “He is just a natural at the sport.”

Snynders has been in Special Olympics for two years now and enjoys what the sports have to offer him. He said even though he has the ability to work with the sail he sometimes strugles.

“I had trouble steering the laser a few times,” Snyders said. “But I still got the hang of it and had fun. I enjoy all the sports but especially this one.”

Over the years, Presley has worked with many Olympians but she believes Snyders is headed to the top quickly.

“I believe that Robert has a talent here,” said Presley. “I know he can make State, but World could be a possibility as well.”

Every four years the Special Olympics have a World Tournament which will be held in South California this year. Presley said she has students qualify for the events regularly however this year she is very excited about what she sees.

“I think I have a great group this year,” Presley said. “I believe that they can go anywhere, if they keep it up.”

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