Special Olympian becomes a mentor

MIDDLEBURY — Mary Lafountain is an athlete with the Special Olympics Vermont Addison County program and has been competing for more than twenty years. She plays many sports but is primarily a long distance runner. When we sat down to talk with Mary she had just completed the Maple Run in Middlebury where she ran six miles as part of a relay team.
In addition to training and competing with Special Olympics Vermont, Mary volunteers as a coach with a newYoung Athletesprogram through the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department. Special Olympics Young Athletes is an innovative sports play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities ages 2-7.
Young Athletes is designed to provide opportunities for young children to be active, have fun and learn foundational sports skills. The program supports physical, cognitive and social development — skills important on and off the sports field.
We spoke with Mary inside the brand new Middlebury Parks and Recreation facility before a weekly Young Athletes session in the spring.
Is this your first time coaching a Young Athletes program? I did it before, a long time ago.
What’s your favorite part about coaching? I like being around kids who have disabilities. They are really nice kids and I like watching them grow up. The kids are learning different things and having fun. I like the balance beam and the parachute. We do it all together.
What do you teach these young athletes? I like teaching them stretches. We do touch your toes, stretches for your arms, running in place, working in partners. Sometimes a kid will have trouble and I try to help them get back into the group and feel included.
Do you see yourself as a role model? Yes. I’m a great person to be around and I show great leadership. So it’s cool for young athletes to see a grown up athlete. I can teach kids to be kind.
What would you tell someone who is looking to get involved with Special Olympics? Come volunteer at our events and get involved!
The upcoming Young Athletes program at the Middlebury Recreation Facility will take place on Sunday mornings from 10-11 a.m. from Sept. 18-Oct. 23. The program is available to families at no cost. Coach Mary will be there!
For more information about Special Olympics Young Athletes, visit http://specialolympicsvermont.org/beyond-sports/young-athletes/ or contact Special Olympics Vermont’s Community Development Manager, Caitlin Jenkins: [email protected] or 861-0274.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Liza Reed of Special Olympics Vermont.

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