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Heroes In Our Midst Heroes

by Ada Casado

Rarely do we have the opportunity to meet someone special enough to make a lasting impression in our lives, someone who makes us look into ourselves and change our perspective and attitudes. This year I found a new hero—actually a heroine. She is my hero because she is one of those people full of enthusiasm, pride and determination.

If you think I am talking about a C.E.O. of a big corporation, a sports celebrity or a well-known personality, you are wrong. The person who touched my life this year is unknown, does not hold an executive position, nor has she made the cover of any magazine.

Her name is Theresa Hiles. She is twenty-six years old, lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is a gymnast. I have the privilege of knowing Theresa since her childhood when she began participating in Bolingbrook Park District and Joliet/Bolingbrook Special Recreation activities. In July of this year Theresa competed in the Special Olympics World Games held in New Haven, Connecticut.

Gymnast Theresa Hiles

Gymnast Theresa Hiles smiles with pride as she receives a standing ovation from Bolingbrook Park District commissioner Al Tracek and others gathered to celebrate her athletic achievements in the 1995 Special Olympics World Games.

I admire Theresa because of the way she achieves her goals. Every morning she waits for her coach in the lobby of the recreation center. She is quiet, but you can see the anticipation in her face. She is ready for the two hours of work.

While she is training she demonstrates how important this is for her. She concentrates, studies, repeats. She is a perfectionist, never satisfied with her performance, looking to her coach for guidance and support. She is a true athlete, with discipline, determination and endurance.

Theresa does not compare her skills with those of Nadia Comaneci or Mary Lou Retton. She will never be able to do a flip over a balance beam or bolt like Mary Lou. But, does it matter? Not to Theresa. She focuses on her accomplishments. Success is to walk on the balance beam, keeping her balance. Success is remembering her routine on the mats. Success is doing her best.

When she reaches her goal. when she receives the award, oh boy! Her expression, her pride, and her gratitude are

Illinois Parks & Recreation * September/October 1995 * 33

out of this world. She makes us feel humble. How many times do we take things for granted? How many times have we seen those athletes we call "heroes" loosing their cool because they think they deserve more? Not Theresa. She may be disappointed at times, but only with herself—and she will try again, to do it better.

She may never be on the national news or on the Sports Channel, yet her achievements have taken her to the top, to face the ultimate challenge—competing with athletes from all over the world.

Theresa is one of the 82 athletes from Illinois who competed in the world games. David Almendarez (Springfield) received three gold medals in powerlifting events. He was followed closely by his teammate Misty Hornton (Shawneetown) who received two golds and a silver. Richard Jarosk (Highland) and John Belmonte (LaGrange) who received two gold medals each.

Other gold medal winners were Marianne McNamee (Alton), Dennis Bucker (Jewett) and Robert Henson (Hull), Michael Kinshaw (Orland Park), David Mamrose (South Holland), James Sabo (Chicago), Paul Balwin (Jacksonville), Bill Flott (Belvidere), Jim Hill (Naperville), Michelle Amundson (Mundelein), Cathy Graigs (Chicago), and Frank Olivo (Burbank). The Illinois Delegation also received twenty-five silver, and twenty bronze medals.

And about our Theresa? There was no gold, but the results were nevertheless outstanding. Competing against hundreds of athletes, she won fourth place on the balance beam and sixth on the floor exercises.

Congratulations, Theresa! Congratulations to the Illinois Delegation. Whether you brought home the gold or not you are true heroes!

Ada Casado has worked for the Bolingbrook Park District for 15 years as preschool coordinator, recreation supervisor and most recently superintendent of recreation. The Joliet/ Bolingbrook Special Recreation Association is under her supervision.

Special Olympic Games

The first international Special Olympic Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, in July of 1968. The 1995 games took place July 1-9 in New Haven, Connecticut.

Illinois Parks & Recreation * September/October 1995 * 34

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