Over 900 athletes will participate in this year’s Special Olympics Michigan Winter Games, and for Kent County resident Kayla Cornell, this year marks the 17th year she will compete. She says, not only does the State Winter Games allow for people with intellectual disabilities to compete in a variety of Olympic-type sports, but it also gives athletes a sense of belonging.
“For a lot of these athletes, this is their place they can come and be themselves. No one judges them and they can just be themselves and relax and have fun.”
According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 1 in 10 families will have a member who suffers from a significant limitation in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. Most of the time, it originates before the age of 18.
Cornell adds that no matter if you are a newcomer to the games or a veteran like her, the opportunity to compete offers participants the chance to achieve their dreams.
“You’re going to see the look on these athletes faces that are amazing. These athletes that some for the first time competing and some have been going for years, but you’re going to watch the excitement on their face when they get that medal or that ribbon. It’s just the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen.”
The Special Olympics State Winter Games will be held in Traverse City, Michigan from January 29th to February 1st.