Parish hopefuls aim for the gold at Special Olympics
Theresa and Curt Theriot, of Luling, stop for a snoball as they celebrate the evening before heading off to the Special Olympics national games.
The send off party usually takes place in Baton Rouge, but this time around Theresa Theriot, assistant director of the St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation Department, was able to bring the celebration to St. Charles Parish.
“We had the facility and we are flying out of New Orleans International Airport tomorrow so this was the place to bring them. Also, it allowed us to showcase our new facility here, which is very nice, and brag a little bit on St. Charles Parish,” she said. “So everybody here rolled their sleeves up and did what they have to do.”
While Theriot’s efforts were integral in bringing Team Louisiana to St. Charles Parish this year, her relationship with the Special Olympics began over three decades ago in 1991 when she signed up her step-son, Kurt Theriot, to participate.
In fact, Theriot’s relationship with the Special Olympics ultimately led her to becoming the director of Bayouland Special Athletes.
“I knew the athletes and I knew where they all lived and I just kept looking until I found them all. We have about 200 and something in the parish,” she said.
Since becoming a parish employee, Theriot has gone a step further in helping create local programming for disabled residents including baseball and flag football programs as well as an inclusive summer camp.
Her stepson Kurt is one of those who has benefitted from the programing. The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games marks the first time since he began participating in athletics that Kurt will move on to the national competition.
“I do the 100 meter run and 50 meter run and then the softball throw,” Kurt said.
Kenny Guidry, an employee with the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department, is one of five coaches who took Kurt and 19 other athletes from around the state to New Jersey.
“I just stumbled into it in 2008 and have been here ever since,” he said. “We are going to be rolling. We’ve got one of the best track relay teams out there, but we also do swimming and bocce and a little bit of everything.”
In addition to coaches and athletes who are taking part in the games, there is also a group of unified partners who participate with the athletes. Having unified partners join up and play on the same side as the disabled is the newest trend in Special Olympics, Theriot said.
“It is called special and non-special. That is what unified is all about and it is the coming thing in the future,” she said.
Calvin Berry, of Destrehan, is one of those who participates on the basketball team that includes disabled members.
Berry, who is the owner and operator of Master’s Touch Drumline as well as a minister, said it has been an enjoyable experience since he joined up two years ago.
“I love it. I am married, I am a business owner, but I don’t mind sacrificing being away from my family and business to be here for these guys and love on them,” he said.
Last year, Berry’s team won the Louisiana Special Olympics basketball championship and now they are vying for the national championship.
“If we win this, we go on to play against the world,” he said.
Berry brought fellow Destrehan resident David Green onto the team when he joined.
Green, an employee of the Bunge North America grain elevator, said the experience has been great.
“It has been an excellent experience. I like being around the athletes and helping and getting to know them. It is really good experience,” he said.
Green said even though the basketball team takes up a lots his free time, it is worth it in the end.
“As long as it is a good thing to help, it is not always about working and making money, but also about giving back to the community,” he said.
As far as their potential to take home the gold medal and take their team to the world championships, Green said he feels they have a pretty good chance.
“We’ll do our best and hopefully bring home the gold,” he said.
Anyone who would like to volunteer with the Special Olympics can do so by calling Theriot at (985) 331-3007.
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