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When special-needs kids play sports, parents savor the normalcy

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18 2013 4:00 a.m. MDT

Hungter Elzey gets ready to run in the 50 dash. Several hundred special needs kids take part in their sports day Friday, May 18, 2012 at Riverton High School.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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The Washington Post took a local special-interest story about the Montgomery (Md.) Cheetahs — an ice hockey team for children with disabilities that recently reconvened for its eighth season — and gave it the “big-city treatment” Sunday, replete with top-notch reporting and photography.

“The team has done more than just help kids,” Lynh Bui reported for the Post. “Parents like Ed and Satellite Crane have found the Cheetahs to be a place where adults find a sense of belonging, too. … The team allows the parents to briefly forget about the pressures of having children with special needs, which can take an emotional and financial toll. …

“At the ice rink on Saturdays, the Cranes can lean on other parents and unburden themselves. They’ve been doing it for the past seven years and they plan to keep going for years to come.”

Even in the Digital Age these sorts of affirming, heart-warming stories remain a staple of local journalism. By way of illustration, here are snippets from three other articles in which families directly benefitted from seeing their special-needs children out playing sports, all published within the past five days.

“Football one step on journey to ‘normal’ for special-needs boy” by Alan Johnson, via the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch: “As free safety on the Liberty Bulldogs, Murphy Vetter doesn’t make many tackles. He stands around a lot, shies away from contact, and sometimes slumps to the ground if a runner heads his way. But being on the field, in uniform with a big number 33 on his back, is a victory for 11-year-old Murphy. He is the first special-needs child to play football in the Olentangy Youth Athletic Association. … Murphy’s cherubic baby face belies the mysterious mixture of autism and Down syndrome that is his lot in life. …

“Tina Thomas-Vetter, Murphy’s mom, also watched on the sidelines, occasionally looking at his name and number printed on a Bulldogs roster card alongside the names of 14 other boys. ‘What I see is “normal,” ’  she said quietly. ‘I never thought Murphy would ever go to a typical school, much less play football.’ ”

“Program gives those with physical disabilities a chance to surf in North Myrtle Beach” by Jason M. Rodriguez, via the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News: “Participants were wheeled on the beach in beach wheelchairs and taken to shallow water. There, they were helped onto surfboards and brought to deeper waters where they waited for the right wave. Every time a participant rode a wave in, a crowd of people gathered on the beach clapped and cheered. …

“(Amy) Fields was taken over with emotion as she let the realization of what her (12-year-old) daughter accomplished Saturday morning sink in. ‘My heart is so full,’ Fields said.”

“Kids kicking autism with karate” via KATV-7 in Arkansas: “Tricia Arnold, the mother of a student with Asperger's and ADHD, said of her son, ‘We’ve seen his grades improve. We've seen him, you know, making more friends when he wasn't making friends before.’

“Arnold said the (karate) classes teach her son lessons beyond self-defense, including discipline, good manners and self respect.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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