November 14, 2012
Last Thursday, I traveled about 60 kilometers north of Bucharest to Ploieste to attend one of the two days of a regional Special Olympics competition in the athletic events of swimming and bocce ball. The day before had been gymnastics which I did not attend.
It turned out that I was attending a larger and more significant event than what I first realized. There are four SOR regions and each one has its own athletic competitions twice a year. This particular event had over 170 athletes, many whom were young and participating for the first time. Children and young adults from the special day schools, families, and residents of four placement centers (institutions) were invited to attend. Since I last attended an SOR event, the number of participants has grown as has the number and variety of family members and volunteers from the community (about 80 this time). Also the presence of children from a placement center is a step in the right direction since it provides a way for them to be included in an activity in the community.
I found the day to be incredibly uplifting! It was hard not to be constantly smiling while watching or helping with of the fun and joy experienced by the athletes. I have to say, though, that I felt sadness as children departed for a placement center with limited nurturing and activities, and also knowing that opportunities to be involved in community events were rare. I feel a tug on my heart strings each time I think about it.
I’ve included a few pictures of the swimming and bocce ball competitions and the last picture is of a little guy who had just finished the swimming and, as his mother said, “He’s so tired, he can hardly stand up.”