In the 6th grade I got the opportunity to go to the city-wide Special Olympics. When most people hear “Special Olympics” they think about a place where everybody wins in some type of way. This is not the case. I was in 3 events and I lost every one. The first event was a 50 yard dash in a wheelchair. I could not use my right hand, so I had to roll the wheelchair with my one hand. So I lost. The next event was a softball throw. Now, here was an event that in my mind, I was really good at. I had been practicing for weeks. I could throw a softball across my whole backyard. No problem. I thought that I had this in the bag. I was the first one in line to throw. You got 3 throws. My best throw was about 10 or 15 yards, not bad. The guys behind me didn’t have a physical disability but a mental disability. I remember watching the whole event as it happened. They gave the kid the ball and said, “Tommy, throw the ball!” And this guy to my amazement, hail mary-ed that ball across the field. I just walked away. I knew it was over. And what was funny about this was that he was not the only one. Everybody behind me was throwing just like him. The next event was my 50 yard dash. I was going to run without a wheelchair, without anything, just running. This was about when I was 14 or 15 so I had been on my feet for a while. I remember that being one of the greatest moments ever. Not the fact that I won, I ended up losing. But because I had just run a race on my feet which any doctor would have told you was impossible. But with God all things are possible. This really helped me build up my self-esteem.
Another thing that happened at Shrine School that really helped me with my self-esteem is the boys were always told to help set up for events, which at another school I would have been told to sit aside and let somebody else do it. But we were told to pull out all the chairs and set up the tables. It was a great time. Little by little, I learned more about what I was able to do. We also had a wood shop class where we got to learn how to make bookshelves and anything anybody else would. We were taught how to sand our projects and stain them. And it was also our responsibility to do it. Nobody else would do it for us. And if we messed up a project, we would just mess it up. At the school I went to, since everybody was disabled, nobody got pity at all and it was great.