By Stacie McManus, mother of Special Olympics athlete Jacob McManus
I confess to have started writing this wrap up for World Games about 5 different times. Each time I find myself unable to find the words to adequately express what is in my heart and my head. How do we thank the people who spent countless hours in cold barns and sweltering heat over the years?
There are so many who have worked with Jake since he took his first steps astride. How do we thank the “angels” who gave us a vision for Jake’s future? Those who helped create the road map to strive for the best, fullest future possible for our little man. How do we thank the teachers, therapists, mentors, friends and family? Those many who taught us, pushed us and encouraged us to have high expectations for our amazing son. How do we thank the strangers & friends, clients & co-workers, neighbors & family near and far who cheered? You were there in person or long distance and gave us the feeling of community which is so often missing in the lives of special needs families.
The joy and panic of watching Jake compete in the Special Olympics World Games was indescribable. The pride and awe of seeing him shine continues to give me chills just thinking about it. The emotion connected to seeing him struggle and overcome obstacles, big and small, during this process was intense. We could tell story upon story of the ways in which this journey should have been impossible. Ultimately, the blessings of so many wonderful people in our lives, and our belief that Jake is truly wonderful, made this all not just possible but an overwhelming triumph on many levels.
Above all, the achievements of his success belong to Jake for his hard work and determination (even when he was a cranky-potamus and complaining!), but also to each of you reading this for your part in our lives. We are forever grateful for the experiences Jake has had. The love and support shown to Jake and our family has been a gift. My tired “Olympic Hangover” brain can find no better words to say than “thank you” for being in our lives and being part of Team Jake. Our “village” continues to grow and we are so indebted and thankful to have you.
But please remember that the daily struggle of so many families like ours is hard. The path is not easy for so many and we are fortunate in so many ways others are not. Someone asked me the other day what my “takeaway” from the experience was and all I can say is “reach out.” You have been part of the reason for our success and we know you can make an impact for others as well going forward.
Make a friend if you are in school, ask a mom or dad how you can help if you think they are struggling or hire a person with special needs so they can live a full and valuable life. We know the difference that can be made with the effort to make a connection; we have benefitted so much from the people in our lives. So please, remember the good vibes and emotions we all feel today and let’s all pay it forward and CHANGE the future for so many in need.
I am sure I am forgetting people as there are too many to remember, so forgive me … we are SO thankful to you all!
With immense thanks and undying gratitude for being part of our lives,
Stacie & Michael McManus