Tim Acerno is a long time Special Olympics New Hampshire volunteer. Tim attended the 2019 State Summer Games as a photographer and shared the following story about an athlete (Jillian) and her father (Greg) that he has been watching, and photographing, for years.
I remember Jillian’s first Summer Games. I watched Greg fill with pride as Jillian not only crossed the finish line – but also stayed within her lane for the whole race!
Over the years, I think I have become Jillian’s personal paparazzi. Today I had the opportunity to take some pictures of her competing in the 25 meter walk. I sat down about 15′ to 20′ past the finish line so I could look down her lane as she walked the course. Literally, if I tried this 2 years ago, she would have spotted me about halfway down the course and just walked off the track towards Greg without finishing. Today, as I was taking pictures, I watched her as she walked the course, crossed the finish line and kept walking towards me. I could hear Greg and the timers calling to her, but she kept walking towards me, so I kept taking pictures. Just as she reached me, I kept the camera to my eye and raised one hand. She high fived me, walked around me and walked to Greg.
Special Olympics is more than just competition and winning medals. Special Olympics provides an opportunity for the athletes to feel confident outside of their homes and comfort zones and interact with someone other than their family and counselors.