Friday, March 23, 2012

Runnin' Sweatin' n Gettin' New Tennies

The annual Special Olympics Fun Run was yesterday.  About 50 children with special needs,  their families and children in grades 5 and 6 from five schools in Orange Walk participated in a 2 K walk/run through town. The whole event started with passing out free tennis shoes to the participants.

The shoes come from an organization based in Boulder, Colorado called One World Running. They gather "nearly new" donated shoes from all over the US that have been dropped off in selected running stores.  Volunteers sort the shoes into "newish" and "too old" bins. Then the shoes are washed and shipped around the world to be donated to poor children.  This picture is from their website:

One World Running has teamed up with Belize Special Olympics for 4 years running (pun, ouch!). 


After the shoes were passed out,  we sang the National Anthem, had a prayer, (yes everything begins with prayer in Belize), and some dignitaries spoke while the rest of us tried to pay attention.  This year the speakers were mercifully short.  Which is a good thing when you are standing in direct sunlight since 8 AM and it's rounding 9:45 AM  and the temperature is 90 degrees (if we were in the shade!).

A police Drill Sargent who is a friend of Special Olympics and the father of a St Peter's student, led us in stretching exercises in a booming voice that carried easily throughout the group of about 425 participants.  Eventually we headed to the starting line and were off!  I hung back and took pictures and then brought up the tail end of the race.

When we got back to the finish line, someone passed out free water and bananas to everyone.

My role this year? Photographer.  I hope some of the 64 pictures that I took were good enough for Special Olympics to use for promotion.

 The little girl pushing this boy's wheel chair is blind (!)  They were cute together.

 Abner from our program. He is always doing physical humor.

 Elizanie, Sulmi, Gineli and Kristel.

 The three deaf boys from our program: Rayan, Jaheed, and Misael.
Misael came in second over all.  It wasn't really a race.  It was supposed to be a slow paced most of the people did just that.  BUT,our  ten year old boys are competitive.  For them, it's always a "RACE".

 This little girl with the lower body motor control issues, walked the whole 2K...smiling! She wears a sign that says"I am special, so are you!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The American Dream Still Exists

Here is a school picture of Hipolito.  Now he is 17.

I wonder what it was like for my great (great, great) Grandfather, John Peter Moerschall,  to leave his home in Heidelburg, Germany, say a “til we meet in Heaven” goodbye to his family, board a ship that he’d never been on before and cross the ocean to “America, the Land of Opportunity”. I don’t know what his real experience was like.  If he was feeling excitement, sorrow, fear, or all three.  But I had a glimpse into what his experience may have been like when I took Hipolito to the airport last week.

Hipolito only had one suitcase, but the van was filled with his father who had already immigrated, a brother who was going with him and 17 other relatives including sisters, a half-brother, nieces and nephews, and his mother.

Who saw my grandfather off?  Was his mother’s eyes also so filled with tears and sadness that that she could not speak?

When our group of 20 people arrived at the airport we had two hours before the flight left. After checking in, the family tried to make small talk, but it was more silence and rocking in place while looking anywhere but in the eyes of the mother.  Finally they decided to all hug the father, Hipolito and his brother, sending them off through passport control and security.  Hipolito, embarrassed to cry, stepped outside for a minute until he was ushered back in and given his passport.

Bending low and waving, all 17 relatives who would remain in Belize watched as the travelers got their passports stamped and passed through the security archway.  An hour remained until the plane would leave.
All of the relatives watching the plane disappear into the clouds.
I don’t know if my great great great grandfather's mother was even at the dock in London when John Moerschall's ship sailed for New York, but I imagine that they were there...watching.  Maybe he stood on the deck and waved just like Hipolito’s family stood watching for him to board the plane.  No one talked.  Even the little nieces and nephews knew something serious was happening, so they just clung to the skirts of their mothers or rested on their hips. When the plane took off in the air everyone waved and must have been thinking, "When will we ever see each other again?" 
Was John Peter Moerschall’s mom also wondering that question? Did she feel like they had said the last spoken words they would ever say to each other?   

When the plane was just a speck beyond the clouds, we gathered the children and headed back to the van. The tears flowed and flowed like we had been at a funeral, and in some ways, we had.

I suspect the experience was a little different for Hipoloito.  Riding in a plane for the first time would have been exciting. The stewardess would have asked him if he wanted earphones while he was trying to figure out how to manipulate the little TV on the back of the seat in front of him. He probably wondered if he had to pay for the coke he was given for free, with ice, even.  Maybe his thoughts lingered on the sad goodbyes but soon he would have been looking ahead to what it would be like in America.   He would attend the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin.  He would be surrounded by deaf people and high tech equipment. He would get to hug his deaf brother who immigrated 6 years ago. Their first hug in 6 years would last long and also be tear-filled.

What does Hipolito’s future hold? Lots of good things. We will miss him.  We already do.  But we know God will be with him, guiding him and beckoning Hipolito to make good choices.

John Peter Moerschall, great great great Grandpa, I wouldn’t be here without the choices you made. Thanks for chasing the dream.