The Olympic Day Celebration this year came with dynamic benefits as former Olympians Kate MacKenzie and Aaron Parchem were the featured guests at the Novi Parks event on Thursday evening.
Kate MacKenzie is a 2004 Olympian in rowing and Aaron Parchem is a 2006 Olympian in Pairs Figure Skating.
The event attendees who participated in four Olympic sports could receive a certificate from the United States Olympic Committee and have it signed by the Olympians. And according to Kate MacKenzie, “We had a blast!”
“It was the kids,” she continued. “They were so positive and into the event, along with being upbeat and happy. Novi is my home town and it’s nice to see them join in the Olympic spirit and values.”
Emily Stevens, Recreation Supervisor, and a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, agrees. “It was awesome! The small crowd made for an intimate event. The Olympians liked that and brought all the kids up closer. Everyone really had a one on one with the Olympians. And having a conversation made them feel kind of special.”
“It was well worth it,” MacKenzie remarked. “It allows us to share the Olympic spirit and values, and show that people can get along and compete.”
To prepare and compete at this level, Kate shares that she devoted 10 years of her life. “We came in 9th out of 10 in Athens. We beat the French. It was a close race. We were .15 seconds out of 7th place.” Going on she said, “I overcame a lot to go and the journey continued even after I went (to the Olympics).”
MacKenzie also shares that Aaron Parchem trained for 4 years to shave .46 points off of his total points. That training and perseverance worked and he “made the Olympics,”
“I am so grateful as I have no fear to get what I want. I have a total belief that people can strive to get what they want because hard work is the biggest part of it.” Summing it up, that’s what Kate felt got her to Athens in 2004.
Olympic Day, itself, is celebrated all across the United States and in 160 countries, in commemoration of the birth of the modern Olympic games. It is not only a celebration but an international effort to promote fitness and well being in addition to the Olympic ideals of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship.
In that vein, Stevens went on to say that Mayor Pro Tem, Bob Gatt introduced the Olympians, “who did a great job speaking and they played all of the games.”
In speaking about the games, MacKenzie laughingly shares that “Those Karate kids were kicking my butt and making me sweat.”
Besides the Karate program, put on by the Family Self Defense Center, the United States Professional Tennis Association held a Fun Start Tennis Program, the Novi Ice Arena brought a “shooter tooter” and sponsored the Hockey Program, and the City of Novi’s Camp Lake Shore sponsored the discus program.
The event itself was made possible by the United States Olympic Committee, who made the arrangements for the two Olympians to speak.
Stevens concluded saying, “Everyone was really happy and the Olympians ‘made the event’ by showing that they weren’t untouchable and had ups and downs, too. They were very truthful and explained that with passion, perseverance and hard work, anyone can do anything.”
And to show that exact point, Lois Arnold, CEO of Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI) was thrilled to share that three of their Olympians are in Athens at this moment to compete in the World Games, whose Opening Ceremonies are today, June 25 from 1pm to 4 pm Eastern Time, and will be covered by ESPN.com and ESPN3.com, per ESPN Corporate Outreach. Similarly, the closing ceremonies to be held on July 4 from 1 pm to 4 pm will also be covered by ESPN.
Athletes Sabra Shelton from Stevensville competing in aquatics, David Foust from Canton also competing in aquatics, and Molly Hincka from Brighton competing in athletics (track and field) are in Athens Greece for the 13th Special Olympics 2011 World Summer Games. This is the largest sporting event of 2011, on the most historic site in the history of Olympic sport, per SOMI. A total of 7,500 athletes from 185 countries are scheduled to compete for Olympic Gold.
“We are so proud of these athletes for all of their hard work. From the moment they were selected to be Gold Medal Winners at the State Summer Games in 2010, they each have been working very hard to get into shape and be the best they could be at this event,” exclaims CEO Arnold.
“They are staying with host families this week, waiting to compete in the World Summer Games starting on June 25,” she continued.
Along with these three spirited athletes are two coaches from SOMI. Maciej Litkowiec, aquatics coach, is from Clinton Township and this is his first trip to the World Summer Games. Deb Schultz from Midland is the golf coach. This is her fourth time coaching at the World Games.
Arnold shares that, “Special Olympics has really grown. We have so much more in the way of services for children and adults. We have the largest Healthy Athlete Program in the world, which includes professional services for vision, dental, hearing, and fit feet.”
In addition, Arnold continued, “We have free medical exams in order for the athletes to participate along with nutrition programs. We also offer the Child ID program wherein a portfolio is created of the unique profile of each child to give to the family for identification purposes,” she ended.
As CEO of Special Olympics Michigan for the past 21 years, Lois Arnold had the privilege of meeting Eunice Kennedy Shriver “a couple of times at the International competition, when I attended with my husband and son, who was two at the time. Mrs. Shriver got down on the floor and played ball with our son.” Chuckling, Arnold added, “She would get active directly with the athletes anytime she could.”
“When I was confirmed as CEO, Mrs. Shriver literally picked up the phone and congratulated me. It was quite an honor,” said Arnold. “She was so active up until her death and she was an incredible supporter of people with intellectual disabilities.”
When asked how long she might continue in this position, Arnold replied, “I am very passionate about our programs as they do really great things for a wonderful population. As long as I can continue to do that, I will.”
Olympians Kate MacKenzie, Aaron Parchem, Sabra Shelton, David Foust, and Molly Hincka are excellent examples of the Olympian values of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship and these excellent examples and all of their hard work are greatly appreciated. Hats off to each of them and “Go for the Gold” in Athens.