Persons, places and things: Special Olympics: It’s more than a game


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Three members of our family sat in front of the TV, eyes glued to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Colin, our 31-year-old family member with autism, earned a gold medal in bocce competition at the state level last year and qualified for the national competition in Seattle with his unified bocce team. We watched the coverage July 1, absorbing every detail of the procession of Olympians from Iowa as they appeared on the screen at the opening ceremony.


The Iowans wore red jackets and white brim hats. I spotted Colin first, standing next to Mark, his mentor and co-member on the New Choices Inc. unified bocce team. Colin seemed amazed by the pageantry as he walked inside Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle. I choked up seeing my son there. The journey to Seattle involved more than the opportunity to compete nationally. It’s also about faith, that God guides our son to grow and to blossom on God’s time.

My husband Steve and I were thrilled to learn that Colin would participate in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. But as plans got underway, I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and couldn’t commit to traveling to Seattle. New Choices, the agency that serves Colin’s special needs, made arrangements for Colin to fly to Seattle with the other members of his unified bocce team — Mark, Marie and Teresa.


Colin hadn’t flown on an airplane since the age of 3, when we traveled to England to visit my parents who were living there at the time. Colin is a stickler for schedules. What would happen if one of his flights got delayed or canceled? What if the plane got stuck in a holding pattern or a crying baby couldn’t be consoled?

I prayed fervently, asking God’s guidance so that Colin could handle the air travel and enjoy his time in Seattle. God has provided. We couldn’t have prayed for a better person to accompany our son on the plane than Mark, one of Colin’s heroes. Colin also has formed a good bond with Marie and Teresa.

He enjoyed the flights to Seattle and asked Mark for the window seat so that he could look for our house, the Interstate 80 Bridge and the city of Galesburg, Ill. Landmarks provide a sense of security. Colin discovered some new landmarks to cherish — the mountains.

After arriving in Seattle, Colin called us to report on his trip and to ask if we had saved that weekend’s bulletin from Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire. If he can’t make it to church, he needs a bulletin for reassurance. All is well with the world.

After the opening ceremony, I called Colin to get his impression. “It’s pretty fun and awesome.” The lighting of the torch was one of his favorite moments. I told him we’d seen him on TV. He was thrilled to hear about his nanosecond of fame.

“You looked like you were enjoying yourself walking into the stadium,” Steve told Colin. “What did you think about the music?” his younger brother Patrick asked. Colin liked the music and everything else in the stadium packed with 4,000 athletes and coaches, 10,000 volunteers and thousands of spectators. As a child, Colin would have struggled mightily with the sensory overload.

I am following Colin on the Special Olympics Games website, which lists each athlete’s profile, events and a brief biography ( The Special Olympics motto is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” God provides companions on the journey that make it possible for Colin to be a winner before the first event.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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