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Learning How To Dream Big

You would never know it to see me now but I was once a serious athlete. Bookcases and walls were lined with my prizes, filled with the shiny trophies of a youth spent sweating my way towards a finish line or a gold medal.

I spent as much time as I could running from my demons and shooting towards my dreams, as the hours in a day would allow. Sports weren't just for fun; they were my passion.

And then, a blown knee, a bad back and a baby (or two) and suddenly my dreams of standing on a podium, accepting a medal on behalf of my country scattered like gold fish flakes in a fish bowl.

My days as a contender were over but my dreams never died. I'm still the girl that sits in front of the television, watching athletes chasing their dreams while envisioning my own.

Luckily for me, having children birthed a new dream. Being a soccer mom has its privileges other than just sitting on a wet field on a cold spring day as you watch other people's children pick their noses. I may not be able to win any more medals of my own, but darn if I can't cheer loudly on the sidelines as my children win some of their own.

When Fric and Frac first toddled about, getting their feet under them, I naturally wondered if they would be athletes, scholars, or both. Would they jump as high as their daddy? Run as fast as me?

As it turns out they can out run, out jump and out think both their father and I. Which makes for good times on family sports night but not so fun times when they are hiding my cookies.


Part of the beauty of raising children is knowing your children are a package of endless possibilities and dreams all neatly bundled in a wee body that occasionally flushes legos down your toilet and refuses to eat anything green.

When I gave birth to Shale, I worried those dreams wouldn't appear. It took me a while to learn how to parent a child with special needs and it took me even longer to learn how to dream for him.

I was firmly mired in the muck of the reality of having a child that was differently-abled than my older children. Shale didn't do anything I hoped his siblings would do but he ended up doing everything he wasn't supposed to.

He sat. He walked. He learned to toddle in a graceless waddle that for him was a sprint. He thrived.

The same way his younger brother Jumby is now doing.

With every milestone and accomplishment both my younger boys made and will make, it inspires me to re-learn how to dream big for them again.

He could have been a contender.

These boys of mine, both Shale and Jumby have taught me to think bigger and be better and to know that it is possible to dare to dream big dreams for them.

They have earned those big dreams and they deserve them, the same as their older siblings.

I've learned having special needs children doesn't mean being ruled by limitations. It means learning how to dream bigger and finding ways to make those dreams come true. From dreams as small as learning how to swallow without choking to dreams as big as becoming an Olympic athlete.

One foot after another, he's chasing his dreams.

So when I was asked if I wanted to write about the Special Olympics, as part of a paid sponsorship for Procter & Gamble's Proud Sponsors of Moms program, it was a no brainer. I'm a mom, I love sports and I love any program that helps adults of all abilities make their dreams of winning a shiny medal come true.

As a longtime supporter of the Special Olympics (31 years and counting), Procter & Gamble is stepping up to the proverbial plate and helping the moms of  Special Olympic athletes with a huge chunk of change (quarter! million! dollars!) that will support local programs and services. They're also a sponsor of Team USA at the Special Olympics, taking place in Athens June 25 till July 4.

For every person who fans the Thank You, Mom Facebook page or leaves a comment, P&G will donate $1 to support Special Olympics Team USA's journey to Athens—up to $250,000 above their other contribution. That's a lot of dough that will help a lot of athletes and their moms.

(I won't deny I hope this program is a smashing success so P&G will sponsor Team Canada for future Special Olympics. Because our beaver loving, maple-tastic team of athletes and their moms needs all the love and sponsorship it can get too. So go click over to Facebook. Do it for the athletes. Do it for the moms.)

This summer, as the Special Olympics rage on, you know where I'll be. Sitting beside my children, watching these athletes chase their dreams, just the way I once dreamed of chasing mine.

Only this time, as I'm watching I'll know I played a part in helping make the magic possible for some of these athletes and their families.  I hope you will too.

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Reader Comments (35)

I supported all of you on the P & G fan facebook page....
What a fantastic post....
Have a wonderful Mother's Day Weekend!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

What a wonderful thing to support!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I liked the page and loved the video! Every child deserves to be loved, believed in, dreamed for, and cherished. Happy Mother's Day!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartha H.

this story made me cry. i took care of two special boys, who touched my heart and made me believe that despite the few limitations they have in their lives, they continue to learn how to do things. i miss those boys so much and this post reminds me of how tall they are now, taller than me. i know your kids are going to grow up wonderfully. thanks for sharing!
I hope you can also check out our site at
http://www.aheadinteractivetutorial.com. thanks!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergrace @ahead

This is a terrific organisation and cause, everyone deserves the right to dream and to achieve and everyone can.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPenbleth

This is great! I've fanned the page.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Hanna

I love this post.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChelsie

How absolutely beautiful Tanis.

You should be their new spokesperson. Because I now want to run out and do a million things to support the Special Olympics.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMom101

Your boys are beautiful. Good for you for doing this and good for that company for stepping up to the plate.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn H

For the record, I can totally out run our children. And I always know where they hide the cookies.

Good job T.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBoo

I'm so unbelievably proud to know you. The Executive Director of Special Olympics is someone I know personally and have a GREAT admiration for. Thanks for writing this Tannis. You are a rockstar. I love you a TON. - OTJ

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOh, The Joys

Love it! Happy Mother's Day to all the moms who stop by RNM.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandeMocha

Beautiful. Just beautiful. You're a fantastic advocate for all of your children.

Happy mother's day!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreenEyedLilo

What a wonderful post to celebrate such a special cause. Good for you for doing this.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWanda Rands

The Special Olympics are in Athens? That kicks almost as much ass as you. Almost.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason

"to think bigger and be better and to know that it is possible to dare to dream big dreams for them." Brilliant! Lovely post, Tanis. Inspiring, heart warming and funny.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRhea

My MIL is a coach for the Special Olympics and her dedication amazes me every day :)

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLady Estrogen

Couldn't have said it better myself.. and awesome support... w00t

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPetra

Special Olympics is the awesomest.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

Boo! Tanis, you need to run a race to prove him right (or not) and record it for us... Jumby can be the judge at the finishing line!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBush Babe

Liked! xoxo

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLex

just showed the video to my seven year old, she watched it, shook her head, and say "that sure teaches us a lot of good things, in such a short video!". <3

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKande

Big sparkly hug and now am off to the Facebook to like the page. P & G just got a whole lot smarter than I ever imagined by chosing you.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhabanerogal

Today he keeps a busy schedule juggling his work college studies and multiple sports from bocce ball to powerlifting. When Mikes parents Dave and Karen first learned that their son had Down syndrome they were crushed. Now they say that getting their son involved with Special Olympics was most likely one of if not the most important decision we ever made for Mike. Special Olympics gave the Baileys an opportunity to form lifelong friendships and cheer for their son.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBirk Shore

I went and "liked" before I even finished your blog, here. And while my Joe can't/won't participate in Special Olympics, I can at least try to move him, for now, from one very small, private school placement to a larger, more "out-in-the-community" class for his last two years of education. Some of these kids would be content to live up to only lower expectations. If we wish for more for them, odds are they will do more. :-)

May 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJFS in IL

Nothing like bawling before my coffee. Thank you for sharing that video and the word to support Special Olympics. Going over to FB now to click Like.

Enjoy your day tomorrow -- you are an amazing mom!

May 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermom-mom-mom

This mom of a chokes-while-eating-kid, thanks you.

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMomo Fali

You are amazing. That is all.

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlogmuse

What a refreshing post. Your boys were blessed when God chose you for their Mom. My DD doesn't have the same type of special needs as your boys, but she does have learning challenges and such. Your post causes me to stop and think and be thankful for a beautiful daughter, and to remind myself to dream big for her. For that, I thank you!

May 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

What a positive force in the world! I applaud your energy and thank you for supporting Special Olympics.

May 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCityMom2

Oh my goodness! I LOVE the Special Olympics! That video made me cry. I've seen too many special needs kids get blessed with miracles to ever believe that they can't walk, talk, or even eat on their own!

By the way, I'm your newest follower!

Alicia Marie

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia Marie

Parenting Special Needs kids gives me a better appreciation for every accomplishment and milestone no matter how small. Every step, every word, every movement is worthy of a gold medal. I can't wait until my son is old enough to join the Special Olympics because I know that he will love it and the people in it!!

Keep up the great support and the great love that it is to be a Special Needs mom!!!

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKrystal

I appreciate the very touching sentiment of the video and have been a lifelong fan of Special Olympics. I want to add that there are some children who grow up and even with all the love, prayers, support, and special services in the world, still aren't able to walk and/or talk. However, these kids can still fulfill dreams and make their parents proud. Special Olympics is all about recognizing the "specialness" of each individual, regardless of diagnosis, background, or abilities.

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Go big or go home! Love it.

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

As the mother of a Special Olympics Athlete, thank you. We're gearing up for the big state wide summer games event here in Washington state. It is always the highlight of my year. I think I have more fun than my son. ;-) Ok, maybe not quite, but it's a close tie.

There is something about being surrounded by a stadium full of cheering parents, family members, caregivers, coaches and volunteers, all of whom are gathered together for the sole purpose of creating a fantastic experience that celebrates the unique abilities of our differently abled loved ones. It renews my faith in humanity.

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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