About 3 years ago, Kristi and Bryan Schache of Dunlap were looking for a sports activity that their then 8-year-old twin sons Joshua and Jonathan could do together. Traditional sports programs were not an option for Joshua because of physical limitations due to his disability.
“We were looking for a place for Joshua to participate in organized sports, not just a family activity,” said Kristi.
A church acquaintance mentioned that Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association (HISRA) offers sports for those with disabilities. Not knowing what HISRA offered, Kristi looked into it and liked what she learned. Unified Golf was a great option because it combined sports with family relationships, she said.
Fast forward three years – Joshua and Jonathan, now 10 years old, just returned from the 2014 Special Olympics Illinois Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur with gold medals in Unified golf!
“Golf is a sport that Joshua can do at his own pace,” Kristi said. “Unified golf is something they can both do together as a team.”
Some may have questioned the family’s decision to start the boys in Unified golf instead of letting Joshua start in golf skills and work his way up to Unified golf. “We wanted them to have a sport they can do together, hopefully for the rest of their lives. As parents, we value things that help them pursue their relationship.”
It was evident during competition in Decatur that the boys enjoy the sport and encourage one another. Jonathan could be heard saying “Good job, Joshua!” and Joshua could be heard saying “Nice shot, Jonathan!”
“This is such a confidence builder for Joshua,” said Kristi. Both boys’ golf skills are improving through lots of repetition at weekly practices. “The sense of accomplishment they gain – that’s really significant.”
In addition to their sense of accomplishment, the experience is positive because it is also enjoyable. “Golf is fun,” said Joshua. Jonathan added, “We love to golf and look forward every week to going together.”
Last year, Joshua’s medical paperwork allowing him to ride in a cart was not completed for the Outdoor Sports Festival. He walked the entire course both days and was so exhausted after the competition that the family didn’t make it to the Opening Ceremony or dinner/dance afterward.
Joshua is growing stronger and “we’re amazed at how much less fatigued he is compared to last year,” said Kristi.
This year, Joshua’s paperwork came through for the cart; Joshua wasn’t as exhausted and the family was able to attend the Opening Ceremony and dinner. “They were so excited to go to the ceremony and walk in the parade to the dinner,” said Bryan. “This has been a great experience for the family.”