After undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her brain in 1999 and then chemotherapy for the next two years, Jordan Prince was told she may never hear, walk or speak again — continuing to participate in athletics seemed like a remote possibility, at best.
But the Destrehan native wouldn’t have any of that, and in part thanks to Special Olympics Louisiana and United Way of St. Charles, she’s defied the odds and then some.
Through Special Olympics, Prince became part of the Bayouland aquatics swim team in the summer of 2016 and went on to great success despite numerous obstacles. Prince is severely hearing impaired in her left ear and completely deaf in her right ear, and was left developmentally and cognitively delayed following her surgery. She has trunk-line imbalance, ataxia, neuropathy, seizures, and no feeling in her left leg from her knee to foot.
Her mother, Jayce, said that she and her husband, thought their daughter wouldn’t be able to participate in athletics again, though Jordan had always loved to do so. But a recommendation led them to contact Special Olympics, though she had never even had a single swimming lesson before.
“On Jordan’s first day it was quite intimidating,” said Jayce. “Because Jordan cannot hear anything in the water the first barrier was to get a coach that was patient and would take the time to communicate with her.”
That coach was Brian Hinrichs, who Jayce called “amazing,” along with the other coaches, parents and volunteers. Though there was a communication barrier, Hinrichs wrote on white boards and communicated through sign language signals.
He also helped her build physical strength. Because she could not feel her left leg, he put flippers on her and instructed her to do extra kicks to build up strength.
The hard work paid off. At the recent Lafayette games, she earned gold in two freestyle events and silver in the breast stroke, while helping propel her relay team to the gold medal as well.
“Special Olympics Louisiana has given Jordan Prince purpose again,” Jayce said.
Prince is just one of many Special Olympics success stories. The organization provides year round sports training for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. It hosts more than 100 competitions per year across the state.
Through the group’s partnership with United Way of St. Charles, Special Olympics Louisiana is able to reach 300 athletes plus their families, coaches, volunteers, and unified partners in St. Charles Parish.
“We have also engaged Destrehan High School and other area schools into our Unified Champion Schools program that incorporates sports and related activities while enhancing inclusion and acceptance within the community,” said Special Olympics Louisiana spokeswoman Casey Minton. “Thanks to the grant provided by United Way, we are able to continue to grow and touch more lives within St. Charles Parish.”