Monday, February 4, 2013

This past weekend was one of the greatest and most memorable weekends ever. A while back I wrote a post about Corby's Castle and what was to become of the organization I had worked so hard building in memory of my brother. And what has become of it is something beyond what I could have ever imagined.

This weekend we traveled with our Special Olympics volleyball team to Austin for the Winter Games. Our unified volleyball team (unified teams= half special olympics athletes, half "typical"--whatever the heck that even means-- athletes) was competing in our first major tournament.  

The first night there was the opening ceremonies. So incredible to see a huge gym packed with people who are lifting each other up, so supportive, and so excited. There is really nothing like it. 

We had to be up and at em bright and early the next morning. We stayed in a hotel with our team (which included the traditional special olympics team, and our unified team). Those two teams are under one umbrella- we do everything together. It was amazing to see the responsibility that the athletes take on. There are high expectations placed on them. They are not babied, and no one acts as if they can't handle taking care of themselves. Their parents stayed in a separate hotel so as to make them feel completely independent. They were responsible for being up, dressed and ready to go early in the morning-- and they were always more punctual than our group. 

Our team, The Corby's Castle Towers, consists of me and Joey, my sister-in-law, Abby, her boyfriend, Josh, and our three high schoolers- Kate, Faith, and Holt. We are the "unified partners". Then there are our athletes- Frank, John, Wes, Patricia, Lulu, and Amanda. I cannot say enough great things about our high schoolers. They blow me away. They are incredibly compassionate and I am so thankful that they are a part of this experience. 

Ace and Archie were such troopers. I don't know why it makes me so happy, but seeing them sitting on the sidelines cheering on our team is one of the coolest feelings. They genuinely love our Special Olympics athletes, and vice-versa. I love how blind they are to any differences that exist. And I love how Archie is not different when we are with our team. They love to take care of Ace and Archie. We have all built real relationships, real friendships. That is what is so unique about unified sports. We are not there to help out, we are not there to serve. We are a part of one team. We play by the same rules.  We got frustrated with each other. We supported each other. And just as much as the athletes needed our support, we needed theirs. 

Somehow I made the starting line-up, and played most of our first match. We were up against a team who has been together for close to ten years. Ten years. This was our first time to state. As I watched them warm up the butterflies started going crazy in my stomach. This team was legit. When the game started I truly wanted to barf. I could not believe how nervous I was. And that first game, we did AMAZING. We stepped up our game, and got them off of theirs. Oh and don't think for one second that these games don't get competitive. Oh boy do they ever. We won our first game of the match, which is best two out of three. I think the other team was shocked to have lost. The next two games, we were a bit over excited and totally lost our mojo, and we ended up losing them both. It was actually quite heartbreaking. But we played great and we held our own against a very seasoned team. 

Our next match we got back in our rhythm, and won the match in two games. We ended up winning the silver medal overall. Second place, pretty darn good. {No need to mention that there were only three teams.} Unified sports are still a newer phenomenon, so there are not a lot of teams yet. There need to be so many more! 

I would encourage EVERYONE to be a part of a unified team. Doesn't have to be volleyball- there are tons of Special Olympics sports. There's bound to be something for everybody. I can't wait for the day that Ace and Archie play on one. 

Opening ceremonies

A non-hazardous torch makes its way around

Lucky for us, my brother and sister are both in school in Austin right now-- so we got to spend a lot of time with Aunt May May and Uncle Price. 

Bowling-- Holt and Patrick

Early morning games. Tired baby girl. 

Lulu, John, me and the kiddos. Notice Archie snuggled up on John. He stayed like that for almost an hour while John rubbed his back and he drifted off into sleep. So precious. 

Frank cracking Ace up

The Towers

Relaxing between games 

Archie's favorite 

See that sleepy little face...

Ace and Patricia hanging out before dinner

Cool kids

Just chillin back at the La Quinta

A bunch of silver medalists

Saturday night dance party! This was so much fun. It was an end of tournament celebration. We danced like fools. Archie entertained the entire place for an hour and a half. Ace wore a pretty "twirly" dress, but was too tired to actually dance. She would not let me take her picture. She sure looked cute though. 

Joey gettin all Gangnam Style

Okay cool story. This Special Olympics athlete in the picture below was on the Unified Team that won the gold medal. (The one that beat us in our first match). At the end of the tournament after all the teams had received medals, he came up to me and asked, "would it be okay if I gave my gold medal to your son?" (Archie had been entertaining him and his team earlier that day). I was like, "really, are you sure? no, you keep it..." But he insisted-- he REALLY wanted to. So I took him to Archie and he bent down and put the medal around his neck. He looked him in the eyes and said, "I want you to have this. You're my gold medal." Archie got the biggest smile on his face and hugged his new friend. I don't even know his name but I am so thankful for him. He gave away something that was very important to him. Gold medals are a big deal. Everyone around had tears in their eyes, and as he walked off with one of his unified partners, I heard him say to her, "I just had to give it to him." Later that night we saw him at the dance and he gave Archie an orange balloon. 

Which really came in handy at the crowded dance where he was all over the place and I was afraid I might lose him. (Find Archie in the picture below).

Seriously though, I don't really know why he wanted to do that for Archie. He wasn't doing it for attention, and it wasn't on a whim. He sought me out in a giant crowd at the end of the tournament because he wanted Archie to have his gold medal. It was really an awesome moment. 

After the game we all wanted to go out for ice cream-- so we looked up the closest Baskin Robins. We pulled up to the world's tiniest drive-thru Baskin Robins. Our team packed in and we literally filled the entire place. 

A two scoop limit was set by our coach,  which Patrick inevitably broke. Love him so much. 

Sunday morning it was time to say goodbye. Archie requested pictures with everyone.

It was sad when it was finally time to go as this was the end of our season. We will start back up next Fall. We are already planning outings with our team between now and then though. First things first- a girl's night! 

I love these people so much.

Oh yeah, and our team made the SOTX website-- check it out!!!!!

We are going for GOLD next year!!
Lots of Love!


Karen said...

Congratulations, what an amazing time it was for all of you. Love the team spirit!
Thanks for sharing :)
PS Missed you guys, a month is a long time in between Ace and Archie stories :)

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