Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scholarship Luncheon

My luncheon was awesome. It was held at a private banquet room located inside the State fairgrounds in Columbia. From the moment TJ, Th, and I walked into the building, we were treated like royalty, and although it was nice, I was very embarrassed by it. I do not like to be in the spot light and felt very uncomfortable. We were given name tags (Th felt so grown up writing his own name tag!) and immediately escorted to meet Senator Hayes, Radio, and Coach Jones (of the hit movie, Radio).

We mingled a bit, found our seats at our reserved table with Senator Hayes (which were right up front!), and the program began. Radio gave the blessing and we were ushered out the door to the buffet line. The food was wonderful, but unfortunately I don’t know what we ate other than the “basic” names- mixed veggies, baked chicken, squash casserole, potato salad, beef tips, dinner rolls, and of course dessert. I chose the chocolate cake (chocolate, of course!) and Th had a piece of pie. I don’t know what TJ ate because Th sat between us and I was talking to the Senator and the Executive Director of my county’s Board of Disabilities for most of the meal. Thankfully TJ attended with me to help with Th. TJ also sat next to another Senator, Marion Carnell, and they talked for quite a bit.

After eating, the presentations began. There was another member of the SC House of Representatives in attendance, and he awarded a scholarship to someone from his district. Then it was Senator Hayes’ turn to introduce me, and I had to go up. I avoided making a speech by not going by the microphone and simply shook the Senator’s hand for a picture.

As much as I know what was said is true, the entire time I just felt like I didn’t deserve any of it- the luncheon, the recognition, the money. Basically, Senator Hayes contacted my university because he wanted to award a scholarship to someone in the field of human services (A.K.A. Special Education). I do not know who recommended me (although it’s been driving me crazy!), but someone on faculty nominated me and I was selected. I do not know who I was up against or why I won, but I do know that this scholarship is a blessing from God. Back to the nomination- whoever nominated me knows my background- the many years of coaching Special Olympics (4 years in Ohio and another 4 years in California), and of my starting the aquatics program in California. Not that I had forgotten any of it, but since moving here, where there is no aquatics program, Special Olympics has only been a fond memory for both TJ and I.

At the luncheon, the Exec. Director of the Board of Disabilities (initials M.P.) wants me (and of course TJ!) to start an aquatics program in our county. I am more than willing, and definitely excited, especially as I will be finishing school next May and need something to do with my time since I won’t be studying! LOL! TJ and I have always said that we want our children to give back to their communities, and Special Olympics is one way for them to do so. They can come with us to practices and swim meets, especially Th. I told her we are more than willing, we just need the city (and county) to support us. I am not one to give up when faced with a road block, but at the same time, I am not as zealous as I once was. How sad- I can’t believe I just wrote that! Shame on me! If I am not willing to fight for those with disabilities, then I have obviously chosen the wrong career! Scratch that last statement and let me rephrase- at the present time, I do not have the time needed to fight city and county leaders. However, in the spring time I will, but hopefully it won’t come to that (although I have plenty of experience from my time in California). M.P. is going to be contacting me after she talks to some people she knows involved with Special Olympics. We’ll see what happens. I sort of felt like that part of my life was over, but who knows, maybe I was simply on a sabbatical while I finished school and God is resurrecting it after all. I hope so, especially after this luncheon because so many fond memories were brought back to my mind, sharing stories and telling the ways TJ and I literally started the program from the ground up. Plus, we keep in contact with 3 families that were involved with the team, and it’s still going strong today, nearly 10 years later. Because of our hard work, determination, and God’s blessing, there are athletes involved today that we never met and probably never will, but we have greatly influenced their lives for the better. That is truly a success story, and I am very proud of the impact we had on that community and the legacy we left behind!

Radio and Coach Jones were the guest speakers, and they spoke after I was presented with my scholarship. Radio talked about his relationship with Coach Jones today, and Coach Jones talked about how he first met Radio and how their relationship has evolved. I was touched because he kept saying it was a part of God’s plan, although he didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was using him to break boundaries and stigmas for people with disabilities. He also explained how the movie came about, and it was such an honor and privilege to meet them both. As an aside, our pastor grew up in the same town, and Coach Jones was his football coach at one time. It was so neat to meet them and I was greatly encouraged by both of them.

The luncheon ended shortly after that and we took some pictures with Senator Hayes and of course Radio and Coach Jones.

Us and Senator Wes Hayes

Us with Radio and Coach Jones

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