CHAUTAUQUA (Erie News Now) – Justin Latimer used to watch his big brother, James, play sports growing up and he always wanted to play too.
But, it wasn’t until he got involved with the Special Olympics that his dream became a reality and he can compete in sports year-round.
“As a mom to watch him participate and thrive, like I said it’s not just the sport, it’s not just the games we are practicing here or competing here, it is a life”, said Justin’s mom, Brenda Latimer.
Justin plays a number of sports, from hockey, to bowling, hiking and golf at the Chautauqua Golf Club, both he and his mom said he finds a lot of supportive people and it’s helped him grow as a person as he’s gotten older.
Justin will be traveling to Orlando, Florida with a team, next June to compete in bocce and represent USA in the Special Olympics.
He’s been a part of the Special Olympics for the past nine years and according to his mom, it’s been beneficial for everyone.
“It’s allowed him to have friends even after he left school, it’s allowed me as a mom to have a community of parents”, explained Latimer.
His mom also coaches sports which helps her support many young men and women like her son. “It’s all of us together showing them that they matter and that they are able to participate and that they have worth”, said Latimer.
Not only does Justin participate in the Special Olympics but also with the torch runs.
One year, he couldn’t run in it so, local police officers pushed him instead.
Another year, he cheered on the runners.
“I was helping with the waters and I stopped to take pictures”, said Justin. “So, he was handing out waters, taking pictures so he participated, no he didn’t run in that one”, explained Brenda.
She said the best thing about the Special Olympics is that he has friends and a community for life.
“He’s realized you have support, do you have people there, do you have friends? Friends for life right?”, said Latimer.