Wrangell has one swimmer participating in Alaska’s Special Olympics, but some folks are looking to bring in more athletes and coaches of all abilities.
Carter Hammer joined Special Olympics Alaska about a year ago.
LEFFLER: Do you do swimming?
LEFFLER: What kind of swimming?
HAMMER: Breaststroke, butterfly.
He’s 13 and has childhood apraxia of speech. Here’s Carter’s dad, Clay Hammer.
CLAY HAMMER: It’s kind of a processing disorder, he has trouble keeping things in order, fitting together full sentences. If he throws out a full sentence with more than four words he’s doing really well.
Special Olympics is open to anyone over the age of 8 who has an intellectual disability.
Carter’s Mother, Holly Hammer, says when Carter didn’t qualify for certain competitions with Wrangell’s swim club, they looked into Special Olympics.
He was able to compete last summer and took home three gold medals.
CLAY HAMMER: He loves to go out and be able to mix it up with anybody else he can compete with. I think he thrives in that environment.
His mom says it’s been a great way to socialize.
HOLLY HAMMER: He was so used to competing with his whole team, when we got on the jet he looked around and said ‘Where’s my team?’ So that’s why it would be great to see this program grow and have more kids join him.
Carter is the only athlete from Wrangell participating in the games right now.
Special Olympics Director of Sports and Programs Sarah Arts came to Wrangell last month to encourage more people to participate. The program and local supporters, such as the Hammers, want to see more athletes compete, and in a variety of sports.
Here is Carter again.
LEFFLER: Are you looking to get into other sports?
LEFFLER: Like what?
HAMMER: Bowling, golfing.
And people without a disability can participate too. For golf, an athlete like Carter would pair up with someone without a disability. The partner alternates swings with the athlete who can really show them the ropes. And bowling teams are meant to be mixed with folks of all abilities as well. Plus, they need coaches, like one of Carter’s swim coaches, Jamie Roberts.
ROBERTS: When I was up for training and got to meet some of the athletes, I was just tearing up the whole time. Because there was just something about the amount of joy they give off. I think I would just spend the whole time at Special Olympics just crying, I’m just sensitive that way.
Special Olympics Alaska will be holding a 5k fundraiser to support Carter and other athletes in Wrangell to compete. That fundraiser will be on May 19th.