Today was a landmark day.
It was a day we will never, ever forget.
Today was the Special Olympics! There are no words to adequately describe the experience, but I will try my best.
When we arrived, they began the opening ceremonies by having the Olympians begin their march around the track. The feeling of seeing Abbi come around that corner, excited and full of wonder was incredible. I can hardly describe the wave of emotions that went through me as I watched. Suffice it to say several tears were streaming, and I was definitely not the only one.
After the kids made their way down the track and took their places on the field, one of the amazing Olympians sang the national anthem and recited the Special Olympics pledge.
"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
All of the Olympians and fans recited the pledge with him, and as hard as it may seem to hear conviction in hundreds of voices, there truly, truly was. My heart soared as I looked around me and saw all of these amazing kids, pouring their hearts into this incredible competition.
Three athletes carried the torch around the track. They carried it with SUCH pride and conviction that I felt as though I were at the Summer Games last year. It may have just been a one-day event at the High School here, but it is taken very seriously by these athletes, who give their all with every step they take.
After the opening ceremonies we went out on the field with our beautiful Olympian. Its hard to tell from this picture but she was SO excited to see us! She gave us big hugs and kisses and called us by our names (She calls Kevin "Bear" and me "Mama"). She even said "yay yay yay!" when she saw us. This emotional connection is hard for her to understand, much less convey, so this alone was an incredible feat for Abbi, and a wonderful gift for us.
She watched her fellow Olympians as they competed, with anxiousness and excitement. The craziness of the crowds and unpredictability were hard for her, which is why she is plugging her ears (she does this by putting her fingers behind her ears), and chewing on her fingers for some deep pressure to help calm her. She was so excited to get up there and have her chance to compete! She kept trying to go up to the starting line. She couldn't wait to run!
When she finally got her turn to run the 50 meter dash, everyone tried to cheer her on. Unfortunately for Abbi, dealing with loud noises and crowds is part of her disability. The support of the crowd was in itself crippling for her.
It was so hard to see her struggle through the run. The mama in me wanted to go out to her and hold her right there in the middle of the track, cover her ears, and tell her that it would be okay. The protector in me wanted to wait for her to be ready, to have her walk of her own accord, or let her quit. I couldn't stand to see her hurt, to see her struggle so much.
But, like a true Olympian, she pushed on through the discomfort, and ran with the help of her aides to the finish line.
.... where she won FIRST PLACE.
This is the part where words fail me. All I know to say is that I am SO proud of my little girl. Of this BIG girl. Of this child who fought through her pain, her discomfort... who worked so hard to finish her event, fighting against her disability, proving she can do ANYTHING. Proving we all can. The joy on her face is irreplacable. She did it. And she knows she did it. She knows she put her whole heart into it, and that she succeeded. She is a true inspiration. Later in the day she went on to win Third Place in the softball throw as well. Saying we are proud is an incredible understatement.
She has so much reason to be proud of herself, much more than these two events. More than the Special Olympics themselves. She's an incredible person who inspires me beyond belief. I'm so glad that this event helped her to see success and promise in herself, quite possibly for the first time. There is nothing more precious for her to learn, than for her to know that she can reach her goals, and that she will have support and encouragement right at her side, all the way.