Each athlete at Sunday's “Volley Up For Down Syndrome” Clinic was paired with a player from Edmond North High School. The partners found common ground through their love of volleyball.
It didn't take long for junior volleyball player Mary-Kate Gatewood and 12-year-old Rylee Moore to become best buds.
“As soon as I met her she was just so fun,” said Gatewood.
Rylee's mom, Becky Moore, said she always makes friends fast and keeps busy.
“She loves movement and so she's always got to be busy. Let's make a list, what are we doing?” Becky said.
Topping that list on Sunday was volleyball. Rylee was one of 20 participants with Down Syndrome learning skills at a custom class created by Special Olympics coaches. And while Rylee and the rest learned lessons of the game, her mom watched and hoped everyone benefits from the experience.
“I think it's good, too, for other people in other places just to meet and around Rylee. And just interact with a person with Down Syndrome or someone with special needs…The more you're around someone that's different than you, the easier it is to accept differences,” she said.
The clinic was Cindy Gould's idea. Her daughter is on the team and her son has Down Syndrome.
“Kids with Down Syndrome have difficulties because they have lower muscle tone, so it's harder for them to be as active sometimes. And it's also harder for them to keep weight off,” Gould explained.
Gould said she hopes this clinic will become an annual event, because she believes the community could use more events like this to help Rylee and other kids with special needs feel like they are a part of the team.
After the training session Sunday, the players put their skills into action in a game. After the game, they wrapped up the clinic with an awards ceremony.
Volley Up For Down Syndrome was free for all participants because the event was sponsored by a metro company.