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'Special' Special Olympian

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 12

By Taylor Ramsey

If we are fortunate, special moments and people come into and cross our lives when it is completely unexpected. My first real job was being a dishwasher and overall kitchen helper at Camp Paivika in the local San Bernardino mountains. The camp provided a great two week experience for young children to adults with developmental and physical disabilities. What a tremendous learning experience for a 15-year-old kid like me. I met so many "campers" who astonished and inspired me.

As a sports fan I have more than once been inspired by great sports performances and stories that were quite astounding. My son has been quite an inspiration to me in his dedication, perseverance and determination to reach his goals in playing college and professional hockey. He never gives up or gets outworked. Special Olympians seem to fit that description too.

A favorite sports experience for me has included attending the annual southern California Special Olympics "Summer Games." Last weekend Cal State Long Beach hosted the Summer Games again. I was not able to attend this year, but reading about it reminded me of one "Special" Special Olympian and of my experiences working at Camp Paivika 45 years ago.

Several times over the years our family has attended the opening ceremonies and stood along the entry to the Pyramid at CSULB to clap and cheer on the athletes as they entered for the Summer Games opening ceremony. It is amazing to see the athletes in their team colors and marching in with such anticipation, determination and smiles.

One year as we lined up to cheer on and clap for the parade of athletes I could not believe my eyes. I observed our neighbor proudly walking with her team and we exchanged a big smile with a thumbs up. Her name is Tyra and her home is near the other end of our block.

Tyra would often find her way down to our end of the block on her foot scooter to visit. If there was ever anyone who could bring a smile to our faces, it was Tyra. No matter what kind of day I had or what state my mind was in, I could count on Tyra. When turning onto our street any day of the week I would always look for Tyra to see if she was out on her scooter so I could return her enthusiastic wave and beautiful smile that came my way without fail. When returning from a long day at work she had a very positive impact on me.

When working in our yard she visited with us many times. We would talk and laugh and she would ask us to go get our dog Abbey so she could pet her. Abbey would just sit there and enjoy Tyra's attention and gentle petting. While petting Abbey she would tell us about her day, talk to Abbey and we would always have a very nice conversation.

Tyra brought so much to our neighborhood and it all came so naturally to her. She showed me that a smile could do so much and that a smile could magically appear even when I thought I did not feel like smiling.

Shortly after cheering for Tyra as she entered the Pyramid I read her obituary in our newspaper. I was stunned. I am so very happy I had the honor to know her, be her friend and experience the joy that seemed to always magically surround her. I do thank God for bringing her into our lives and our neighborhood and leading her to share her friendship and joy with us.

Another group of people who are so very strong are the families and friends who support our Special Olympians and campers. They do whatever it takes, not because they should, they do it because they possess so much love. Our family has personal experience with a beautiful granddaughter who has dealt with physical problems all of her 11 years of life. She is so strong and she seems to always be smiling too when I am with her. She gets that from her mom and dad who are always providing support and love.

I believe I have asked this before on these pages, but I will again... Is it not amazing that those who seem to be the weakest are really the strongest?

Why not think about getting inspired by placing the Summer Games on your calendar for next June? Their website is at

Oh yeah, Camp Paivika is still going strong. You can check it out at