The Bridge Spring 2017 The Bridge Spring 2017 - Page 6

Brave Tiger Olympians Winning ribbons was only a partial reason for smiles As eighth grader Hunter Frechette and his friends walked down the halls of Biddeford Middle School with “Eye of the Tiger” playing overhead, they felt like champions before the games had even begun. They were about to join their fellow students from across the District to participate in Special Olympics Maine. This year’s main event took place in the blue waters of the University of New England’s Campus Center aquatic facility. To the throngs of cheering parents, family, edu- cators and athletes it was clear to all that these children were excited to be sharing this moment with their peers -- not because they wanted to compete but simply to have fun. “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt. We are proud of you no matter what you achieve, as long as you tried your best,” the announcer proclaimed during opening ceremonies. “Bravery in attempt” was on full display for the duration of the day’s activities. Special Tigers Photos courtesy of Tammy Belanger During the heats, observers witnessed as many smiles as high-fives between student athletes, teachers and families. One-by-one students carefully slithered into the pool and anxiously awaited the sound of the starting gun. Splash- ing and smiling, athletes of all ages and abilities made their way down the lanes as the crowd cheered. Their pride was in their own effort, and that of their peers. Ribbons and lap times were secondary considerations; everything took a backseat to cheering on friends. “Special Olympics are one of the few times where one feels, and gets swept up in, the unity and genuine pride and joy,” said Diane Frechette, Hunter’s Mom. “Today, they were special - but in a different way. They were the athletes that were going to bring home the ‘Tiger Pride’ for Biddeford Schools. As a parent, we don’t often get to sit on the sidelines of events and cheer our kiddos on. But when we do, look out! There was slight, healthy competitiveness, yet athletes cheered each other on, parents and coaches cheered on children that weren’t theirs, and ob- servers beamed with smiles. My heart exploded with pride for all of them.” “I like to swim super fast with my friends,” said Hunter. “It makes me proud.” Special Olympics Maine’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic com- petition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offering extended opportunities to develop phys- ical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families and the community at-large. Diane adds, “The event is run by the most gen- uine people who are there because they want to be. They were compassionate, understanding and patient, had endless encouragement and not once stopped clapping and cheering on the athletes.” That evening, Diane went into Hunter’s room to see him arranging all his trophies, awards and ribbons that he’s ever won. With the biggest smile he said, “Look Mom, I did it!” As her eyes welled up with happy tears, Diane replied, “Yes you did Hunter, you certainly did.”