Longtime Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete Cindy Bentley helped kick off a new initiative when she served as the inaugural athlete reader for our new Young Athletes Storytime on January 26.
During the virtual session conducted via Zoom, Bentley read Sneezy the Snowman to Young Athletes and their families from around the state. Young Athletes who registered in advance also received a free copy of the book so they could follow along at home.
“I do know it’s going to change your child’s life. I do know that. It’s going to make your child healthy and strong, that I do know.” – Cindy Bentley
In addition to reading the classic tale by Maureen Wright, Bentley did a Q&A with the young viewers and shared some of her considerable Special Olympics wisdom that she has gained in her nearly five decades of participation.
“I do know it’s going to change your child’s life. I do know that. It’s going to make your child healthy and strong, that I do know,” Bentley said to the Young Athletes’ parents. “That’s why I’m still doing it. Until I can’t do it anymore I’m going be out there.”
Bentley also inspired the audience by talking about some of her accomplishments like going to World Games, meeting presidents and writing a book about her life, all of which she told the Young Athletes they could eventually do themselves if they put their minds to it.
Starting the Young Athletes Storytime initiative with Bentley was a perfect match, as she has a history working with kids and has a knack for it. “Something with me and kids, we just connect together,” Bentley said. “They’re just so innocent and they tell you just how it is. I’ve always had this dream to help kids.”
“I think this is a win-win situation, not only for the kids but for the athletes.” – Bentley
Bentley also recognized the value in matching aging athletes with Young Athletes as a way to keep older athletes engaged with the Special Olympics community.
“It gets harder as you get older with sports, but that doesn’t mean that I should quit Special Olympics,” Bentley said. “I just go in a different role. I think this is a win-win situation, not only for the kids but for the athletes.”
She also revealed that she hopes to make it a bigger part of her life once in-person activities resume. “My goal is to work with the Young Athletes. I really think I would be good in that role. It’s something I really want to do and I’m going to do it,” Bentley said.
Young Athletes who missed out on Bentley’s reading of Sneezy the Snowman can check out the recording on YouTube or catch the next reading, which will take place in a few months.
Athlete Keira Thompson will be reading the children’s book that she wrote called Mila and the Too Hard Hoop. It’s about a friendly monster named Mila and her love for basketball. It is an inspiring story about acknowledging when something is hard but refusing to give up on yourself.
As one of Special Olympics Wisconsin’s longest participating athletes who had a difficult childhood that is documented in her own book, Bentley is thrilled to see this new initiative debut and she’s excited about the possibility of athletes making an impact on the lives of our Young Athletes.
“I wish somebody would have read to me. I wish somebody would have given me some encouraging words. I wish I had role models,” Bentley said.