For nine months, Jack began as all babies do, sharing a warm, nurturing space, and bonding with his twin brother Matt before their birth in 2001. On that day, Matt intuitively let Jack go first, like he sometimes does today – or perhaps Jack’s bold confidence was simply taking over, as it often does today. By 2:22 a.m. the day of his birth, Jack was ready to greet the world. Two minutes later at 2:24 a.m., Matt came along. Suddenly, however, the joy of a twin delivery was interrupted. By 2:26 a.m., doctors announced that Jack had Down syndrome.
The music that had been playing in the delivery room that early morning and the upbeat mood of the health care team came to a screeching halt when the nurse delivered the news to Jack’s parents. Was that to signal a lifetime of despair for the entire family?
Jump ahead 12 years and nothing could be farther from the truth. Today, Jack is thriving as a 7th grader in a Kansas middle school, surrounded by typically developing friends, a special education team and a network of Special Olympics athletes, coaches and volunteers. At times, Jack and Matt work in tandem on extra-curricular activities, while still carving out their own special interests. For example, Jack is active in his school’s Kindness Krew, a club designed to follow the mission of Rachel’s Challenge, promoting activities that promote compassion to fellow students and the community. Jack also participates in the school play, musical and broadcast club, where he serves as a field reporter and has had the honor of being a news anchor.
Likewise, Matt is active in his school’s broadcast club, having breathed new life into the club after older students graduated and the club went dormant. Matt is the director of the club, as well as an active participant in his school’s robotics team (his team went to a championship competition in 2012), as well as the school play and musical. Matt also plays in a competitive basketball league in his community.
For Jack, who loves sports, Special Olympics has provided him with the foundation he craves for athletics and an active social life. His love of soccer, volleyball, track and basketball are fueled through weekly practices and seasonal tournaments. And his spirit can best be characterized by the grin on his face while carrying the Special Olympics torch at a regional track and field competition.
It’s no surprise that Jack’s participation in Special Olympics provides him with a fulfilling life and experiences. But what did come as a surprise was how the organization acted as a magnet to many of those who have touched Jack’s life. From family and friends to teachers and church members, Jack has touched their lives and introduced them to the joy of volunteering or contributing to Special Olympics.