www.Ups tatePhys i c i ansSC . com | www.Hea l thL i nksUps tate. com | 61 DIAGNOSED WITH PARKINSON’S? See how we can support you. 864-905-2574 You are not alone. We are an advocate for people and their families living with PD. We offer support groups and other monthly programs to help maximize the quality of life for all individuals affected by Parkinson’s Disease. gapsonline.org HEALTHL INKS IS PROUD TO PARTNER WITH THESE CHARLESTON AREA NONPROFITS copying. At age 9, they signed him up for the Special Olympics swim team. He was the only child on the team, swimming against adults. “But that was OK,” Rion remarked. “I’m pretty tall.” From there, Rion was off to the races. He’s a natural athlete; when he’s not in the poo,l you can find him at his local YMCA, working at the front desk or weight-training, taking step classes or spin classes and playing basketball and baseball. “I’m good,” he noted, prompting Susan to add, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this boy’s self-confidence.” Getting to the Special Olympics requires a little bit of luck. “You don’t just earn your way into the Special Olympics,” Susan explained. “You have to get a gold medal at a statewide meet, and then you’re entered into a lottery. He’s won lots of gold medals, but it took Rion 18 years to be chosen.” “I don’t know if people understand how hard these kids work,” she added. “They’re incredible swimmers. They practice year-round. Rion treats it like a job.” But it’s fun, too. Rion, his parents and his sister and brother-in-law all went to Orlando, Florida, for the Special Olympic games. At the opening ceremony, Sara Bareilles sang, and there was a special video message from Rion’s favorite singer, Luke Combs. “I was bawling,” Rion admitted. He swam eight of the nine days in Orlando. His girlfriend – yes, ladies, he’s taken and very much in love – was there, too, and they cheered each other on at all their races. Rion swam a freestyle relay, the 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter individual medley (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and free), for which he earned his bronze medal. To cap off the experience, Disney World shut down Animal Kingdom one afternoon to everyone except the Special Olympians and their families, and Coca-Cola sponsored all the food so participants and their families could enjoy all the Disney treats for free. The athletes also spent a day at Magic Kingdom. But for Rion, it was all about the racing. “I wanted to win for Michael Phelps,” he said. And standing up on the podium, with his family and girlfriend watching, is an experience this Special Olympics athlete will never forget.