Some youth dream of winning a national title in sports, but for Jeramya Mogler, that dream became a reality this past week. Mogler was a member of the South Dakota Special Olympics Basketball Team that traveled to Florida and came away with the National Championship.
Mogler has been a member of the North East Services Cooperative (NESC) Rockets since he was a freshman. The Rockets are made up of students from Deuel, Hamlin, Castlewood, Clark, Willow Lake, Lake Preston and Estelline. These youth can participate in Unified Sports throughout the school year and can compete in bowling, basketball, soccer and track. Unified means that a Special Olympic athlete is paired with a student or students who are not special needs to help them showcase their skills. These students are there to help grab a rebound, pass it to a special needs athlete or get them a chance to shoot a shot. They may help provide a “shield” for athletes struggling to dribble, so they can get down the court.
Special Olympics gives children eight years and older with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and share their gifts and skills with their families and friends.
When Mogler first started participating in Unified Sports, he thought he would try bowling, but he was adamant that he was not going to participate in basketball or track.
“NO running,” Mogler said.
With a nudge from this family and the then coordinator in Lake Preston, Mrs. Hillestead, Mogler decided he liked bowling so much that he would give basketball a try. By the time basketball season was over, he was not ready to give up time with his new friends or the fun he was having, so he decided to give track and field a try as well. He completed in all of the sports all four years in high school.
Last year, the basketball coach for the NESC Rockets called Jeramya’s mom Khristy Mogler and asked if Jeramya might be interested in going to Nationals in Florida on the basketball team. Khristy immediately said yes.
However, Jeramya was not so sure. Flying made him nervous, as did being away from his family. However, thanks to the encouragement from his mom and grandpa, he slowly warmed up to the idea, starting to get super excited.
“This was my first time flying; the warm weather made me nervous, but I had a lot of fun playing basketball at Disney World.”
“The Special Olympics staff is absolutely amazing with the paperwork, physicals, rules for packing and flying,” his mother said. “There is no way I could have waded through all the back and forth with his needs. They held both our hands through all of it.”
According to his mom, Special Olympics has not only given Jeramya an opportunity of a lifetime, winning a National Championship in basketball, but it has also helped him improve his social skills, learn about following rules and schedules, while still having fun. He also learned that he could succeed.
“I am so proud of each and every medal and ribbon I have earned,” said Jeramya. “I can tell you what event they are from, some story about the event and the friends that were there or even participated with me in those events.”
“I think Special Olympics has drawn some of what we as family could see in him, but he couldn't seem to get out around other people,” added his mother. “Jeramya would just kind of clam up around anyone else. But we knew he was smart, loving and encouraging at home. He seemed to relax and come out of his shell as he got involved in Special Olympics. He also improved his coordination and fine motor skills. He didn't even realize it was happening, but we could see it.”
Jeramya will be hanging on tight to his National Championship Medal and will be telling stories about all the fun he had in Florida for years to come.
“The medal came with a lot of hard work, dedication and fun. We went to play and have fun, not really caring how we finished, but I am super glad that we won the National Championship.” said Jeramya.
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