With the 2016 Summer Olympics over and the 2016 Summer Paralympics about to start, there’s a heightened sense of awe around our world’s best athletes. But you don’t have to go overseas to be impressed by physical feats.
Special Olympics Michigan offers opportunities for child and adult athletes with intellectual disabilities to compete at the local, area and state levels. And Aron Gornowicz, DO, a family and sports medicine physician with ProMedica, has enjoyed being part of the action for the past three years.
He believes that “these athletes compete at the highest levels within their population. They are kind, caring, energetic and highly competitive. The amount of effort put forth all year for them to prepare for their respective events goes well beyond normal athletic participation, and the enjoyment they get out of competing is awe inspiring.”
It Started with a Plunge
This summer, Dr. Gornowicz volunteered at the State Summer Games, providing medical services to athletes, volunteers and spectators. Along with the entire medical staff, he operated out of athletic training rooms as well as on field during the events, sometimes seeing more than 100 patients in a day.
“At these events, we see anything from patients with blood sugar disorders, heat exhaustion, dehydration, sprained ankles all the way up to head trauma or bony injuries and occasionally even seizures,” said. Dr. Gornowicz.
“We have an ambulance nearby if the patient needs further medical attention that we cannot provide for transport to the closest medical facility,” he added.
A few years ago, during his residency, Dr. Gornowicz was looking for a way to give back in the community. “I started with the polar plunge and donations,” he explained. That jump in the cold water to raise funds for Special Olympics Michigan led to a deeper involvement. “I then realized I could utilize my education to continue to do more and help in more ways.”
Dr. Gornowicz has been volunteering with Special Olympics for four years, and even after 18-hour days during the event, he walks away with a positive experience. “I keep coming back because of the people I meet every year. Between volunteers, athletes and spectators you are surrounded by some of the best people imaginable.”
Athletes in Action
Of course, there are the sports, too. Dr. Gornowicz’s favorites include power lifting, bocce ball and the track and field events. “The winter and fall games afford further opportunities to more athletes in events like soccer and snow shoe races.” The State Fall Games in Michigan are set for September 23-25 in Canton, Chelsea and Ypsilanti.
“Special Olympics goes far beyond what most people probably think,” explained Dr. Gornowicz. “For many athletes, this is the highlight of their year or even their life. It provides opportunities to prove themselves athletically, it teaches sportsmanship, social interaction skills and teamwork. For many athletes, these events can provide a sense of self-worth that goes beyond typical interactions.”
And even though it’s a competitive event, there’s plenty of encouragement between athletes. “The amount of sportsmanship is amazing,” said Dr. Gornowicz. “Everyone supports everyone else.”
Feature photo courtesy of Special Olympics Michigan.