Home > Celebrating student success at the Special Olympics

Peter F., a fourth-grader at the High Road School of Mount Prospect, a school providing academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and young adults with extraordinary needs, is an athlete and shining example of the importance of determination. The 9.5-year-old recently placed second in the 100-meter and third in the 50-meter snowshoe races at the 2024 Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) Winter Games state championship, following his gold medal win at the regional SOILL games.

The essence of Special Olympics lies not solely in winning medals but in the personal growth and acceptance it allows. From Peter’s initial behavioral challenges at home and school, to embracing the spirit of competition, his progression exemplifies the transformative power of sports.

Peter’s mother, Christine, thanks the staff at High Road for opening a whole new world for her son and emphasizes the importance of the Special Olympics in building confidence. Peter’s role as an athlete also gave his twin brother, who plays team sports through a local park district, a chance to bond with him in a different way.

“These opportunities provide a safe and comfortable platform for children with special needs to showcase their talents and gain recognition from friends, family and other kids, in a supportive setting,” she shared. “Peter has a heart of gold, but his autism and his ADHD can make it difficult for him and pose challenges particularly in new and different environments. I don’t know that we would have found a place with Special Olympics without the school.”

His journey with Special Olympics commenced under the guidance of physical education teacher and coach Patrick Hurst, known as “Mr. Pat” to his students. Christine says Mr. Pat is always very encouraging and helpful at competition. “He’s got an amazing nurturing and accepting demeanor and I can see why the kids are comfortable – because he makes the parents comfortable, too,” she said. “You can tell he does this because he loves the kids.”

Mr. Pat’s involvement with Special Olympics dates to his late teens. With a background in therapeutic recreation, his journey began as he worked at a rec center during summer breaks, engaging in activities within park districts. Over the years, Mr. Pat found his calling and passion for coaching, ultimately leading him to High Road School in the fall of 2020, where he enjoys spending time with the students outside the classroom.

“Peter’s participation in sports like track and field, soccer, floor hockey, and basketball has showcased not just his athletic abilities, but also his dedication and resilience,” Mr. Pat said. “Special Olympics has provided a platform for students like Peter to shine independently. The school community rallies around these athletes, celebrating their victories and fostering friendships. When Peter qualified for states, I paraded him around the school to let the other students see how hard he worked.”

The Special Olympics community extends beyond school hours, cultivating friendships among parents and athletes alike. The inclusive nature of these events alleviates concerns about judgment or societal expectations, creating a supportive environment for families of children with special needs.

“For so many kids confidence and camaraderie can be challenging and having the opportunity to take part in Special Olympics, in an environment where Peter feels safe and supported, he has learned how to cope and persevere. He is now able to shake off and handle disappointment better. I am super proud!” Christine said.

Peter is excited to compete this spring and we look forward to following him on his Olympic journey. Good luck Peter!