We hopped in the car this past week and headed off to Illinois Special Olympics Figure Skating competition. This year it was bittersweet... Special Olympics in the state of IL has decided to cancel all future Ice Skating competitions due to low enrollment. My brother has been skating for over 30 years!
It has been quite the journey being a special needs sibling and coaching Special Olympics has been a HUGE part of life. When I was 12 I had to learn how to skate because I was jealous of my younger brother skating! I eventually became his coach, but had to give that up because he started doing jumps that I was never going to attempt. He's so brave and determined!
If you've never experienced Special Olympics, you need to know... Arriving at any Special Olympic competition is like showing up to a family reunion. There's drama, fun, competition, but most of all there is love.
(Thanks for the photobomb Deb!)
Meet my friend, Nicole... she is one of the most beautiful skaters you'll ever meet. We've been friends for 32 years thanks to Special Olympics.
Competition was two days and after an exhausting first day, we were excited to get back to the Aloft hotel in Bolingbrook, IL to meet up with friends and relax. As you guys know, special needs families stick together and my family is no exception. A few years ago we started traveling with one of my best friends (who started out as one of my IEP clients). Her son has Autism, my brother has Down syndrome and our kids are all about the same age. We even travel with our nutty mothers, just to keep things interesting.... oh and of course the grandmas watch the kids for us so we can sneak off for some much needed mom gossip.
Spring weather in February in Chicagoland called for some time on the patio!
The Aloft had an awesome lobby that even had a pool table to keep us entertained.
The Aloft hotel is local to us, but a mini vacation to celebrate the last year of Special Olympic Figure Skating competition was MUCH NEEDED. As a special needs family, we know better than anyone that family is not about your blood relatives, but it's the friends you find along the way. This was the PERFECT setting to connect, laugh and enjoy our stay. My kids loved the modern, trendy, city feel inside the hotel with super fast wifi for when we were done hanging out with each other.
Day Two of Competition...
The Awards Ceremony!
Something tells me in my bones that this won't be the last time that I see my brother skate, but I'll admit that there were tears after his last routine. I'm so grateful for these last 30 years of skating, the joy, the falls, the tears, the struggle, the triumph... pure love.
Keep your eye out for our next Special Olympic adventure with floor hockey in Chicago!
The Aloft hotel provided discounted rooms for sharing our experience, all opinions expressed are my own.)