Special Olympians race for joy | AspenTimes.com

Special Olympians race for joy

April E. ClarkGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Mady and Lucy Oakes were up at 6 a.m. Friday morning, delighted about the day ahead.The 14-year-old identical twins from Glenwood Springs were excited – and a bit nervous – about their first appearance skiing at the Special Olympics Friday at Sunlight Mountain Resort.”I’m ready,” said Mady, wearing a pink ski helmet, all smiles. “I was a little nervous when I went down that steep hill.”Dressed in mustard-colored coats to represent the Glenwood Springs team, the twins were making their downhill event debut since learning to ski eight weeks ago at Sunlight.

“They both love this,” said their mom, Judy Oakes, who was waiting inside the Sunlight base lodge as her daughters practiced. “Each season, there’s been this new activity they’re doing.”Along with skiing, the teenagers have participated in Special Olympics track and field, biking, and bowling this year. Judy Oakes said she has seen the positive impact the organization has had on Mady and Lucy.”It has been the best thing for them, recreationally and socially,” she said. “This is just another fun thing to make their life special.”Mady’s and Lucy’s special education teacher, Cammi Menager, was also on hand Friday to cheer on the twins. She and Paul Squadrito coach the team, a role Menager enjoys.

“I’m glad that they have this opportunity,” Menager said. “It gives them self-confidence and self-esteem.”Menager has been dedicated to helping kids with disabilities since she was a high school student in Portland, Ore.”I got hurt in P.E. class when I was a freshman. I helped with the adapted P.E. program, and as part of the P.E. credit, we took the kids to Special Olympics,” she said. “I just fell in love with it. It was my calling.”Sharing her love of outdoors and physical activity with students is one reason Menager pursued a career as a special education teacher.

“My main thing is, I wanted to give them the opportunities I’ve had to enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “I want to give them the best opportunities possible so they can be a contributing part of society.”Gary Anders, 62, of Glenwood Springs, has spent the last 36 years enjoying the great outdoors in the Special Olympics at Sunlight. Anders, who said he is self-taught, learned to ski when he was 24.”There’s’ only one lifetime to do it,” he said. “You can’t believe how many medals I have.”Friday’s event opened with Anders’ teammate, David Hayes, who skied down the mountain with the Special Olympics torch.”They’ve been skiing together for 28 years,” said Hayes’ mother, Lois.

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