I feel nervous, sad and excited as I open the wide doors and walk inside the Ocasek Natatorium at the University of Akron. It’s the same mix of emotions each year. Hundreds of folks, including those with disabilities, gather inside this building. Sometime during the day, I will shed a tear – but I smile often because of the open delight, unselfishness and love that surrounds me.
My daughter, Brooke McMahan, died during a seizure on a warm summer’s day in 2003. She was a joyful soul and a swimmer. Well, truth be told – she had the gift of gab and cared more about chatting with her pals than doing laps. Those swim buddies, the ones who sometimes struggle to do what most of us take for granted, were her best friends. So, after she slipped away, something remarkable happened.
The families of her pals and fellow athletes, who make up the Summit Special Olympic Athletic Club (also known as Summit Stars), launched the annual Brooke McMahan Memorial Invitational Swim Meet.
Word spread quickly and Special Olympics teams from throughout Ohio eagerly signed up to participate – and so did volunteers. The notion was to allow anyone on a team to compete and participate in a swim clinic.
The families agreed that no one would be turned away from competing because of money. That meant reaching out for help.
For those familiar with the generosity of the Charles & Salome Reymann Foundation, it’s probably not a surprise to learn that the family responded. Without them, it would be difficult for the event to take place. Today, it is one of the largest Special Olympics swim meets in the state.
There just doesn’t seem to be words great enough to express my appreciation. For many of the athletes, it is one of the highlights of their year.
At the Brooke Meet, the swimmers wrap their arms around me. I wish everyone could experience that joy. That excitement. That love.
Blessings to the Reymann Foundation for granting us those special moments.
By Kim Hone McMahan
Former Columnist, Akron Beacon Journal