YMCA at Special Olympics

The YMCA of Montclair hosted a Special Olympics Swim Meet this past weekend, and the dedication of all participants radiated throughout the crowd.

YMCA of Montclair hosts Special Olympics Swim Meet.

Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

The YMCA of Montclair‘s Special Olympics took a dive into the hearts of dozens. The Saturday sun was shining, but the light of 50 stars shown brighter from the YMCA of Montclair as young athletes swam into the hearts of a supportive sideline. At 1:00 p.m., the YMCA welcomed competitors, families and friends to the aquatics room, to witness the wealth of athleticism that was gifted to young individuals.

It was an afternoon that fell into the evening, but eyes could not be drawn to a clock, as disabilities became trumped with talent. The Special Olympics of New Jersey trains children and adults with intellectual disabilities to tap into their talents that are submissive because of their special needs. They provide year-round training that consists of commitment from coaches and families to achieve a competitor’s ultimate capability come race-day.

It was a day that had only been a thought for two years with an end result that exceeded expectations. The needs for athletes, volunteers, friends, family and fans, were above calculated numbers: a three to one ratio of volunteers to athletes, over 25 members of the Montclair Dolphin’s swim team, five judges, full support from the staff of the YMCA of Montclair and 144 t-shirts provided by Studio042 handed out and worn proudly by a standing room.

Mike Brune, the Special Olympics Coordinator and a past chair of the YMCA Board is overjoyed with the turnout and the labor of love of an event that is due back at the YMCA in the coming years. “I am really looking forward to next year,” said Brune. “It was a safe and fun event that was taken seriously by proper recording.”

While these were five professional judges, their recording style was slightly altered to meet the athlete’s capabilities. However, judging was still taken seriously with the idea that these athletes will qualify for the sectionals come April and the finals that will occur in the summer.

Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

The time that was required received its recognition through the respectful crowd that came to support. The bleachers were filled and the balcony was lined, with barely a spot to see. But the buzz of the room was enough to feel in the presence of power.

Medals were handed out with the help of Montclair officers as well as Mayor Robert Jackson. Jackson was thrilled to be a part of the meet at the YMCA. “My colleague Bill Hurlock and I were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the athletes, families, friends, volunteers and staff,” said Jackson. “I encourage anyone who may have lost faith in the human spirit or the power of healthy competition to work with Special Olympics or to simply attend one of these events.  I guarantee a transformative experience.”

When I finally whittled my way to witness a race, I fully understood the magnitude of this day. It was not only the racers who beautifully beckoned the butterfly, but everyone and everything that had led them to that spot at the diving board. They were accompanied by the people who coached them to the finish line, the parents who sat with them in congratulations whether they medaled or not and the presence of perseverance that wouldn’t allow an impairment to overshadow their shine.

Brune’s coordinating ability was distinguished and the board members plan to meet to discuss the event’s future. With the approval from the YMCA of Montclair, the event will likely occur annually. The meeting will be held to discuss changes for next year, but also a celebration of a success and the idea that its success can only go up from here.

The YMCA of Montclair was the perfect junction to encounter this day of camaraderie. If you were there, you were amongst it and can still feel the sensation that was sincere in the community’s sporting facility. If you were unable to attend, let the Special Olympics of New Jersey be an inspiration to encourage you to support your own struggles with something positive to reclaim its spotlight.

For more information about the athletes, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, go to sonj.org.

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