As one of the many stops for the Unified Relay, which carries the Flame of Hope torch for the Special Olympics World Games across America to Los Angeles, a group of athletes, peer partners, parents and school administrators from Puyallup and Emerald Ridge high schools carried the torch for a mile through Yelm on July 3.
Christy Galan, a parent and coach for Special Olympics, originally saw a post on social media about the torch coming to Washington, and jumped on the opportunity for her son, Adam, and other Special Olympic athletes in the Puyallup School District to have an important part in the World Games.
Part of carrying the torch means helping to fundraise for Special Olympics.
“We raised over $2,000,” Galan said. “Because of that, we will get to keep the torch. It will be displayed at either Puyallup High or Emerald Ridge, or potentially the district headquarters.”
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For the Galans, the event became a family affair. With Adam having a form of autism, his sister, Jessie, gives back by donating her time as a peer partner for the Special Olympics, and helped one athlete without much grip strength to carry the torch for part of the way.
“It was so cool to carry the torch,” the Puyallup High School junior said of the experience as a peer partner carrying the torch. “It was amazing to be a part of something bigger with the Special Olympics World Games.”
The Galans are planning on watching the opening ceremonies July 25.
“It’ll be fun to watch it on TV, and be able to say that we had a part in that,” Christy Galan said.
The Special Olympics holds a special place in the hearts of the Galans, as the organization has helped 19-year-old Adam develop his social skills and really come into his own after graduating from Puyallup High last year.
“Before, he was really struggling with his social skills,” his mother said. “Now that he’s participating in basketball, a team sport, it has really helped him with his social skills. Last year, he was Special Olympic Athlete of the year.”
Galan encourages parents who have questions about getting their children involved with Special Olympics as an athlete or a peer partner, even at the elementary or junior high levels, to contact their child’s school.