The Junior Orange Bowl’s Sports Ability Games encourages youngsters with physical disabilities go for the gold.
By Rodolfo Roman
Special to the Herald
Brian Douglas, 8, was born without a tibia in each of his legs. But that doesn’t discourage him from participating in physical activities.
“It feels good because I get medals,” said Brian, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and joined more than 200 local physically disabled youngsters at the 30th annual Junior Orange Bowl’s Sports Ability Games Track and Field event at Tropical Park last week.
The three-day event also took place at Shake-A-Leg Miami and Miami Springs Aquatic Center.
“It makes me feel good to know that I can do this,” said Brian, who competed in the long jump with the help of stubbies , a shortened prosthetic her prefers for competition.
His mother, Samantha Cools-Lartigue, said the competition boosts confidence.
“This helps them understand themselves better,” she said.
On Saturday, kids ands teens ages 5 to 18 years-old competed in several track and field activities like the shot put or distance running. There were also swimming and sailing events on Thursday and Friday. Miami Children’s hospital provided first aid staff.
There were 285 youngsters enrolled, most of them from Miami-Dade County public schools.
Southwest High student Miguel Caballero Perez, 16, participated in the wheelchair race.
“It feels good because it feels like I can do something,” he said. “I feel like I can do good in life and I feel free.”
Ana Soloman, a teacher at Tropical Elementary, has been teaching physically disabled students for more than 20 years.
“It’s an amazing experience,” she said. “Every time I come out I cry. They come out here and their competitiveness side comes out.”
Chairman Richard Naue said the games serve as a reminder for the participants.
“Many are reluctant and don’t know what they can do and this gives them an opportunity,” he said. “We want them to come out here and see what they can do. We want them to challenge themselves.”
The Sports ability Games is part of the Junior Orange Bowl festival.
Junior Orange Bowl executive director Mark Pidal said the sports ability games are inspiring.
“It’s a population that is often overlooked when it comes to athletic competition,” he said. “So we are giving them a competition.”
Diego Zorrilla, 21, who competed in his wheelchair during past Junior Orange Bowl events, cheered on the contestants.
“This is great to tell the younger kids that if you put your mind into it you can go far,” he said.