By Lori Lyons
All Reed Bates really wanted to do was play sports.
Bates, 21, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is enrolled at Hahnville High School, is too old to play in the school’s sports programs. His younger brother, Kyle, is a football player, though, and Reed really wanted to do something.
That’s when friends suggested that Bates’ mother, Cathy Martindale, call the St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation Department to ask about the Special Olympics. Before too long, Reed was a member of the local Special Olympics track and field team. Not long after that, Reed had his own personal trainer, his grandmother Melazie Martindale. And very shortly after that, Reed had four gold medals clinking around his neck after he won the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, the javelin throw and competed on the 400 meter relay team at the Summer Games held last month at Southeastern University in Hammond.
Reed said he is thrilled with his victories.
“I feel proud,” he said. “It’s like a chance of a lifetime. I showed everybody what I can do. I can be the best. I did it. I proved that special kids can do this.”
Reed certainly showed what a little talent, a lot of determination and a really cool grandma can do. When he signed up to compete, he was all gung-ho. But his mom had a broken arm at the time so it fell to grandma Melazie to get Reed on the right track, so to speak. She gave him a practice schedule, showed him some stretches, got him some ankle weights and even made him a relay baton out of PVC pipe so he could practice the hand-offs.
“The baton is the most important part,” Melazie said. “If you don’t get that right, the rest of it doesn’t matter.”Whatever they did must have worked. When he went to his first practice and ran for Connie Love, who coaches the local Special Olympics track team, she reportedly exclaimed: “Thank God y’all brought Reed.” Then, on the day of the competition, Reed took to the winner’s podium four times.
And he blew away the competition.
“After I first saw Reed throw the mini-javelin, he almost hit the tree,” Reed’s brother, Kyle, said. “It was really cool to watch. After the first throw, I knew he pretty much won it. Every throw he threw farther. I was surprised. It makes me feel good. He gets a chance to do something when he couldn’t do it at school because he was too old. It feels really good when he wins.”
Cathy is overjoyed by her son’s success.
“He absolutely loves it,” she said. “It’s the same excitement as watching (Kyle). It’s excitement. It’s a lot of pride. Happiness that he’s actually out there doing it and winning and he has the desire and is focusing on it.”
Reed said his new sport has given him everything he ever wanted. He also is a very talented artist who uses his art to express himself.
“I feel free,” Reed said. “The reason I joined Special Olympics is, I’m trying to be an inspiration to all the other special kids that they can do what they thought they could not. Even though it’s trapped deep inside their hearts, even if the key is locked, either they lost the key or they accidentally swallowed it at birth. They would still find in their hearts to do these things. These gold medals represent my success, my team’s success.”