The thrill of a lifetime, for the athlete and staff

BCC participant swims his way to gold at Maryland Special Olympics

SwimmingPoolThe athlete’s pledge for the Special Olympics is: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Ryan Russell, a BCC childcare worker on the Denton, MD campus, learned the famous pledge while chaperoning Eli B. to this year’s games held at Maryland’s Towson University.

What he did not know was how profound an effect of witnessing the swimming competition would have on him as Eli brought home three medals.

“I have never met a group of people more willing to be themselves,” Russell said. “Underneath the high fives and the awards, there was a feeling that you were unequivocally and unapologetically proud to be your true self. The beautiful thing was this phenomenon was totally unspoken.”

During the swimming competition, the last place swimmer was cheered as if he or she were leading the pack. Sometimes a swimmer dove at the wrong time, into the wrong lane, or forget the last lap of the race. But instead of tears and jeers for mistakes athletes were encouraged, high-fived and praised. Bravery was all that was required.

“This just speaks to the true connections that both Eli and the BCC staff make through experiences like this,” said Karen McGee, Program Director for the Denton campus.

Russell formed strong bonds with his teammates and the families after he began taking Eli to the Easton YMCA in 2015.

“I can’t even fathom the kind of courage it takes to wake up every day with a disability, but these kids do it with grace, kindness and no fear,” said Russell, who just passed his first year anniversary with BCC. “I wish I had half the bravery these athletes have.”

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