Growth of my Son, Matthew
My son, Matthew, has been an athlete with Special Olympics Hawaii since 2002 when he was 8 years old, mostly with the Maui program. He was a Duck for one season of soccer and basketball but we moved back to Maui after only 6 months. Matt has always been a very competitive and very active child. His challenges are both developmentally and physically but in his mind, he is just like everyone else. He has overcome so much in his lifetime and continues to approach life as if he can do anything he attempts. When he was younger, Matt had a disease that limited the blood flow into his feet that caused the bones to become brittle. He has broken bones in his feet three times. Matt was playing soccer with the Ducks when the first break occurred. This prevented Matt from playing in Area Games and State Games as a team player but he did compete in individual skills with a walking boot and won first place. It wasn't until after the second break that Shriners Hospital discovered the problem and fitted Matt with orthotics to help control the blood flow. The damage had already been done and Matt has limited flexibility and movement in both feet. When the diagnosis was made, the Drs. told Matt he could not run hard for six months. Can you imagine telling anyone they could not run for that long, let alone a 9 year old active, special needs child who could not sit still for two minutes. Matt refused to honor this request without putting up a fight and we as parents had to made compromises to allow some movement by Matthew. That year he played soccer for Maui but we restricted him to goalie and we ended up winning gold at State primarily because Matt was a monster in the goal. Eleven years later, we still restrict Matt to no more than half the game at forward to lessen chances of problems.
That is just the setup. As I said, Matthew is very competitive and hates to lose. He has struggled with his temper most of his life and was even suspended for a season a few years ago for his actions following a loss in the Coach Pitch championship game. He has grown over the years and the outbursts are less severe and he gets over it much quicker but they are still there. This year at the Coach Pitch event, the Maui Warriors fought back from losing our first game to make it to the Gold Medal game Saturday night. The night before the game I prayed to God to let us win the game, but if we did not win for something meaningful or life changing to happen to help him learn from the experience. As we fell behind 12-1 in the 5th inning I turned to God again about helping Matt deal with adversity. Then something magical happened. The umpire came over to us and told us that if we did not score at least two runs this inning, the game would be over due to the mercy rule. We responded by scoring 4 runs to keep it going and then in the last inning, behind 13-5,we exploded. We got within 13-9 and after Matt hit a three run homer over the centerfield wall, we were suddenly within one run. We got the next batter on base but our last batter, CJ, struck out to end the game.
How did Matthew handle this adversity? The answer is better than I could have ever expected. I turned to Matt to try to console him but he was already busy consoling CJ, saying it was not his fault and that he did a good job. Maybe he was seeing a little of himself at that age. He was transformed into a leader, telling his teammates how proud he was of them and how they should feel good about the way we never quit. He then told the other team they deserved to win and hugged everyone on the Rainbows team. I was so proud of him I just looked up and said, "Thank you God!" I told Matt, and the rest of his team that I was more proud of the way they handled this game than any game they ever won.
Matthew's growth is due to many factors, first and foremost his own will to succeed, but also because of parenting, amazing aides at school, wonderful Doctors and certainly, Special Olympics. I honestly feel what he has learned and experienced through all the programs in Special Olympics was what allowed Matthew to feel confident enough in himself to go beyond his comfort level and succeed in the community. He has learned to drive, he is involved in plays, is a Global Messenger and he just got a job as an auto mechanic that starts 6/23., Thank you everyone at Special Olympics for the love, care and patience you provide to allow stories like this to be written.