COLUMBIA — Unlike many of the Special Olympics Missouri State Summer Games coaches and volunteers, who have been involved in the program for decades, the Pineda family attended the games for the first time this weekend. Just a few hours into the event, the Kansas City-area family couldn’t wait to get their daughter involved.
Juan and Aravella Pineda had been searching for programs in which their 13-year-old daughter Victoria, who has Down syndrome, could participate.
In April, the family met Bea Webb, a recreation therapist at Jackson County Parks and Recreation Special Population Services. When Webb heard that Pineda family wanted to become more involved, she invited them to the statewide event.
“When you come to the state event, usually that’s what captures you: the opening ceremony,” Webb said. “You see all ages and everybody from one end of Missouri to the other. This is what I wanted them to see.”
The family attended the opening ceremonies on Friday night and said they were overwhelmed by the size and support of the community.
Brenda Pineda, the family’s 18-year-old daughter, walked in the ceremony with her sister.
Juan Pineda said he thinks Victoria would enjoy being part of the track and field or swimming events.
Although there is a community for people with disabilities in Kansas City, the family said that the gathering at the state games was the largest they had ever seen.
“You see people,” Aravella Pineda said. “You see families. You don’t see the rich, the poor, the disabled, the non-disabled. You just see people. That’s the special thing about it.”