How athletics can change a child’s life | Guest column

  • Thu Oct 19th, 2017 1:30am
  • Sports

by Greg White

Special to the Sounder

Most of you who know me, know my children, and in particular, know my daughter Erin.

If you don’t know Erin, let me tell you a little about her. Erin has autism among some other developmental disabilities. Erin is not defined by her disabilities, but it is a starting point to explain why today was so special. Erin is a beautiful 16-year-old girl with bright eyes and a big smile. She has a wicked sense of humor and strives to understand the world around her.

This fall, Erin really wanted to run on the cross country team. Erin has not participated in any sports since t-ball, and that didn’t go so well. Team sports are difficult for her at best, but we knew Erin could run.

I approached the coach, Laura Hohman, and explained the situation. She was very open to giving it a try and was genuinely excited to help Erin be successful. Erin would not be able to compete in a meet because the course is typically close to three miles and Erin had only worked up to about a mile.

At this point, we marked cross country as a success. Erin was excited to go to school and looked forward to practice every day. Some days Erika Harlow would run with her, some days her Mom, or Hohman would. Being on the team and exercising every day was having a positive impact on Erin.

After a couple of weeks, Hohman approached me and said, “You know, I think Erin would be able to run in a meet.”

Athletic Director Chris Bullock was thrilled to hear Erin was up to the task and got her a uniform. We figured it would be safest for Erin if her mom Tess could run with her. Tess was set to compete in the Portland Marathon so she was up to the task.

Bellingham coach Bill Bachmeier was very positive about Erin having the opportunity to run and he took the time to introduce himself to us before the race.

Fellow Viking runner Emma, Tess and Erin lined up for the start, and off they went. I anxiously waited at the finish line, camera in hand. She was the last girl to cross the finish line, but her whole team was there to cheer her on, and that was the moment. That is what it is all about.

We all went out to dinner and talked and laughed and got home way too late like you do when you are an Orcas Island athlete.

I am sharing this story not only because I am incredibly proud of Erin and grateful to everyone who helped her reach this monumental goal, but I am appealing to you to vote in support of the capital projects levy.

Sports have been a vital part of all my children’s development. Having a variety of sports to offer kids is important because not all kids thrive in a team sport that involves balls and complex rules. Running is about improving yourself and achieving personal goals. Supporting the levy will provide more opportunities for kids who might not otherwise participate. Please also support the bond to improve our school facilities.

I love my Orcas community, and I thank all of you for loving and supporting Erin.

Greg White is a father, land surveyor and member of the Orcas School Board.