June 2, 2013

A summer of lasts

It is beginning to hit me....this is a summer of lasts for Alex. Alex will be leaving Colorado for college in Ohio in late August. It is bittersweet.

Alex will have to say goodbye to the Colorado Special Olympics and her local team the Roaring Fork Mountain Ninos. The Special Olympics has been one of the best things that has ever happened to Alex. She has learned to trust herself, her teammates and her coaches.

Alex learned confidence and the importance of always trying your hardest. She learned how to shine ..... and helped us shine through her. She lost her disability and competed on an even playing field, where she was welcome and included ALL the time. Alex has friends across the world.

Alex (and we) traveled to other parts of the state, country and the world all with the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics has changed all our lives in more ways than we can count. We are all better people because of the hundred of athletes, volunteers, coaches and families we have met through the Special Olympics.

A huge thanks to Cammi, Paul, Kiara, Baylee, Callie and all the Roaring Fork Mountain Ninos volunteers who touched Alex these last six years....it is our sincere hope Alex stays involved in the Special Olympics in Ohio.

This past weekend was the last Colorado State Summer Special Olympic Games Alex will attend for a long time, maybe forever. It was the last time Alex will be featured on the front page of a Colorado newspaper for a long time, in this case The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Expressions of success, bravery in first day of events

Alex Bender from Carbondale swims Saturday during the girls 50-meter freestyle at the 2013 Special Olympics Colorado Games.

Alex Bender, backstroke queen, sat with her ankles lightly crossed, alternating occasional bites from a ham sandwich and a big, red apple.
Below her, deck-level in the El Pomar Natatorium at Colorado Mesa University, athletes from around the state were arrayed in various stages of warming up: wrapped in a towel at pool’s edge, splashing into the water for a few laps, pausing midstroke to catch the eye of a coach or family member nearby.
Kellie Carpenter, one of Alex’s coaches in Carbondale’s Roaring Fork Mountain Ninos swim team, sat next to the 19-year-old swimmer on the first level of wide concrete steps that serve as seats above the pool.
“Do you want to warm up in the pool?” Kellie asked Alex.

“No, I’m ready!” READ MORE

This is the last time I will spend two longs days in an indoor pool in Grand Junction waiting for Alex to compete (far lane). And secretly wishing I was outside.

And the last time I will hang out with the Roaring Fork Mountain Nino's, the best athletes, parents and coaches I have ever been honored to call friends.

I am sure going to miss my baby.

Bittersweet. Beautiful. Extraordinary.

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