Volunteers were busy handing out sunscreen, lip balm and UV bracelets to athletes and coaches throughout the weekend of the 2016 Special Olympics Summer Games in Normal. The Sun Safety program, sponsored by Astellas USA Foundation, was new to the Summer Games Healthy Athletes Program this year. Over the three-day event, the program passed out 1,600 packets of sunscreen and 2,000 sunscreen lip balms.
On Saturday morning, the Klawitter family was wearing Healthy Athletes T-shirts and pulling a cart of Sun Safety products around the Illinois State University campus. In addition to Special Olympics athlete Jack and his parents, David and Brook, were two little girls with charismatic grins and happy attitudes. For Jack’s younger sisters, Sophia, 8, and Mary, 5, being a part of Special Olympics is second nature. Both girls have participated in the Young Athletes Program, where kids ages 2-7 can participate alongside their peers with disabilities.
Since the girls are now older, this has lead the Klawitter family to a new take on #TeamJack: finding activities the whole family can take part in like selling ducks, plunging and participating in the Sun Safety Program. Sophia and Mary have become role models for those with Special Olympics athletes as brothers or sisters. As Sophia stated, “It is really fun to cheer for our brother and help other athletes. We love it when we have a job to do and are able to help out!” And as for Jack, having his sisters around is what he prefers. His favorite thing to do as a family is “anything together!”
Special Olympics Illinois has brought the Klawitter family into an environment of support and success. They attended their first Special Olympics event when Jack was 2 years old. “We found a large community there to join us in cheering for our son and every athlete,” said Brook. “I strongly believe that because of all of the opportunities for success and all the cheers, Jack has developed self-confidence that makes him approach new situations with a can-do attitude.”
“One challenge of having a child with disabilities is that so many activities are for your typically developing child or for your child with disabilities so, as parents, we have to split up to support each family member,” said Brook. However, the Klawitters have found their answer. “Through Special Olympics, we have found ways to participate as a family and that keeps us close and reinforces the bonds between our kids.” Jack agreed, saying “I like it when my sisters cheer for me and my team. It makes me feel special.”
Brook said her favorite part of Summer Games, other than watching Jack compete in aquatics, was “handing out Sun Safety items to a few adult soccer teams. It was great to see the camaraderie that existed between the teams and to be able to talk to them about their games. Aside from giving us a glimpse into Jack’s future, it was so fun to hear from the teams about their games and their pride for their achievements so far.” Mary added she loves to cheer for the athletes and for Sophia, she said she enjoys “walking around and meeting people.”
The Klawitters, have already confirmed their participation for next year’s Sun Safety Program. So keep an eye out for them – they will be happy to talk about Sun Safety, family involvement or anything that comes up.
By Kaylee Kurtz , Families Intern