Hundreds support special athletes as they compete in Girard
By Jordan Cohen
Among a mother’s greatest joys is watching the accomplishments of her children no matter what obstacles they face. On this Mother’s Day weekend, that pride was on full display Saturday at the annual Special Olympics at Arrowhead Stadium.
Take Amy Reilly of Mineral Ridge. Her 5-year old son, Sean, was born with Down syndrome. “I am teaching him that there is nothing he can’t do and nothing he can’t accomplish if he tries,” Reilly said. “He’s too young to participate right now, and he can’t wait till he’s old enough,” she said as her wide-eyed and playful son raced with his father, Kevin.
Logan Smith, 16, Reilly’s older son, is a Special Olympics volunteer and a candidate for admission to the U.S. Naval Academy. “I teach [Logan] that it’s very important to give back,” she said. “I knew that this was going to be part of [our] life when Sean was born.”
Kathy Montgomery, 63, of East Liverpool, knows what that pride feels like. She is the mother of a special-needs daughter, Ashley Ravella, 32, a young woman who is amassing a track record of excellence in the Special Olympics. “I won the bronze medal in
the 100-meter dash today,” Ashley said as she brandished the medal after receiving the traditional high-five from Montgomery.
Ashley’s wish for Mother’s Day: “I want to go to lunch with her.”
Montgomery said Ashley weighed less than 2 pounds when she was born, and her daughter has overcome the odds ever since.
In addition to track, she has competed and won in figure skating, swimming and equestrian sports. Her mother served as a therapeutic coach for the latter when the family lived in North Carolina.
“It means a lot to see her run and excel,” Montgomery said. “This is where [everyone] can show their strength.”
“It’s awesome,” said Barbara Sandini, Lisbon, whose 27-year-old son, Kyle Smith competed in the wheelchair races. “The kids try so hard, and they love it.”
Among the more than 200 volunteers for Saturday’s games were women such as Suzanna Ellis, 30, of Cortland, who do not have special-needs children. “This is my first year volunteering, and I love it,” she said while sitting on the infield grass with her 1-year-old son, Adam. “All of these mothers have their hearts into it, and I definitely will volunteer again.”
As for Sean Reilly, the 5-year-old got his chance to compete even though he is technically under-age. Organizers set up a short race for Sean to run against his brother. It was no contest. The little boy tore down the track and took first place to the loud applause of spectators, hugs from volunteers and the smiles of his mother and father.
“I love Mother’s Day,” Amy Reilly said.