By Angela Kallenbach of Rockford, mother of athlete Alex Kallenbach
Let me preface this with a quote I once heard, “In this world, we all need to connect.”
Our son, Alex, was on sensory overload most of the time. He did not like noise. He did not like to touch or be touched. He never made eye contact. He kept his head down or was in his own world when with people. He would close off those around him. He walked through this world barely connecting with people.
We were lucky to have teachers that worked with him, but he continued to struggle. When he was 16, someone shared with us about Special Olympics. Alex was not really athletic. He WANTED to be an athlete after watching a Special Olympics basketball game. Something clicked and he saw the success of trying. “I can do this” was his new motto. Through Special Olympics, the help of his coaches and the encouragement of his teammates, he made that connection.
He now is a Special Olympics athlete! He loves the cheers of the fans. He is the first to cheer on his teammates. He will look them in the eye and tell them “Come on you can do it.” He grabs the basketball, he runs with gusto on the track, he throws the baseball with skill, he grips the bat and he swings looking to hit it out of the park. What great strides for our son who use to walk in a world of his own! Now he walks the walk of a Special Olympics athlete. He is proud that he can do it!
Being able to see your child make that connection with the world around him is amazing. Being able to watch them grow as an athlete is exhilarating. To watch them become a person who strives to do his best is exciting. Seeing them look at someone eye to eye and encourage them to try makes you humble. This is a parent’s joy – it fills me every time I hear or see Alex compete. Special Olympics made my son’s life better.
From my heart I wish to thank you for making that connection possible for our son. Every time I see an athlete compete it is a lesson in success. It affects each athlete with the joy of “I can do this,” but it also affects families, friends, volunteers and communities. We get to connect with the world of a Special Olympics athlete!