ELYRIA — Mason Mowrey raised his hands over his head at the starting line. It was the gesture by a boy who, 12 years ago, was told he would never walk. On Thursday, he was getting ready to run.
“There’s hope, and seeing him excited makes us excited,” Mason’s grandmother, Sharlene Sposit, said as she watched the 12-year-old Olmsted Falls student cross the finish line in a 100-meter dash at the Special Olympics at Ely Stadium on Thursday.
As an infant, Mason was diagnosed with polymicrogyria, which made it difficult for him to eat without assistance or communicate without using his hands, Sposit said. When he was 9 months old, doctors told Mason’s family he would never walk. Almost 12 years since, he has defied all odds, taking a liking to walking and even running.
“He’s been practicing for this for weeks,” Sposit said, adding that many of Mason’s family members showed up to cheer him.
Mason was just one of more than 300 special-needs students from Lorain County and beyond who showed up Thursday to compete in the 34th annual Special Olympics hosted by Elyria Schools at Ely Stadium on Thursday.
Fifteen school districts were represented this year, and students competed in track-and-field events including softball pitch, the 100-meter dash and the 15-meter dash.
“The whole county comes together,” event director Andrea Orr said.
It wasn’t just the students who showed up for the competition, however. The stadium was packed with friends, parents, family members and people in the community who came to show their support.
“This is her one day to be a total rock star,” Fran Ambrosio said of her daughter, Avon freshman Isabel Ambrosio, who competed in the 15-meter dash.
Isabel has participated in the Special Olympics since she was in third grade, Ambrosio said. Every year, her family makes sure the day is “her day,” taking her for lunch and shopping after the competition wraps up.
“(Supporters) cheer her on and make her feel important,” Ambrosio said of the Avon students who came to cheer on her daughter. “I’m so proud.”
For other families experiencing the Olympics for the first time, the competition held a lot of possibility.
Renee Kelly, who came to support her niece Tiffany Demyan, said her whole family was looking forward to seeing the Murray Ridge student compete.
“It’s important for her to compete with kids on her level,” Kelly said before the Olympics began, adding that Tiffany was far more enthusiastic about the competition than she was nervous.
“She’s excited … you can’t keep her down,” she said.