When Traigh Bowlin was born, he barely tipped the scale at 4 pounds, 10 ounces. In addition to his already fragile frame, Traigh was diagnosed with bilateral club feet and an anomaly in his brain which causes a language disorder and other developmental delays.
After spending the first three years of his life in leg casts, Traigh’s mother, Greta, wanted to ensure her four-year-old son would feel involved in daycare, school and the community.
“We want him to have every opportunity to meet people–both adults and kids–so that he builds relationships as well as confidence from a very young age,” said Greta.
At a Special Education Parent Teacher Association meeting in early 2013, Greta met Cory Thompson, a Special Olympics Young Athletes™ Site Coordinator in West Allis. Thompson encouraged Greta to look into Young Athletes, a program that introduces children, ages 2 – 7, both with and without intellectual disabilities, and their families to the world of sports and Special Olympics.
It didn’t take a lot of convincing. After Greta learned about the program and its many benefits, she enrolled Traigh in Young Athletes through the West Allis – West Milwaukee Recreation Department. There, Traigh developed fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination skills. He also had a chance to run.
“Traigh’s favorite part of Young Athletes is the running! He loves to run!” said Greta. “And we love Young Athletes because it focuses on the basic joys of being a kid.”
Soon after, Greta and Traigh found themselves in Stevens Point for the 2013 Special Olympics Wisconsin State Summer Games Young Athletes culminating event, There, Traigh was able to build upon the skills he had learned at his site in West Allis and gain a deeper understanding for sports and teamwork.
“Young Athletes works hand in hand with all that he learns in school and in his various therapies, and builds on these skills,” said Greta. “He has overcome so many of his sensory issues and fears and is excited to try new things.”
Through Young Athletes, Greta and her husband have witnessed the transformative power of sports. Not only has the program helped their son find his footing, he has learned how to build relationships and interact with his schoolmates and fellow Young Athletes.
“I think I may be the proudest Mommy in the world,” said Greta. “I‘m pretty sure all of the parents around me felt [the same way].”