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Rewards go beyond winning at Special Olympics

| Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
Trib Total Media
Washington County Special Olympics athlete Roger Muzina, 27, competes in the giant slalom event during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games held recently at Hidden Valley Resort. Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Washington County coach Ruth Corrin (left), 84, jokes with Bill Cook, 16, of Charleroi during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, at Hidden Valley Resort. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Jill DeGeorge, 21, of North Huntingdon competes in the giant slalom during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, at Hidden Valley Resort. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Patrick Guyer, 16, of Dillsburg winds up to launch a snowball while waiting for his turn to compete in the giant slalom during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, at Hidden Valley Resort. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

Kristie Reid needed only to see her sister's face when she won her first Special Olympics medal in track and field to know what the organization can do.

The improvement in Deana Reid's self-esteem was immediate. Deana has Down syndrome, Reid said, and although she had gym class at her school for special needs students, she hadn't experienced anything quite like Special Olympics.

“As far as a competitive environment with a reward, no,” said Reid, 55, of Greenfield. “I think I still have a picture of her from that first event. She's boogieing down the track like, ‘I can do this. This is cool.' ”

Reid became a volunteer coach for Special Olympics in 1984. Her sister passed away in 2009 at age 50, but Reid still coaches. On Monday, she was with members from the Allegheny County delegation at Hidden Valley for the skiing competition of the 37th Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Winter Games.

“Especially with the skiing, we love to get these guys doing things that their neighbors do and their classmates do and their families do,” Reid said. “We've had parents cry because they'll say, ‘We'll try it, but we don't know,' and suddenly we're coming down a hill, and the parents are crying saying they never thought it would happen.”

One of the athletes competing on Monday was Jill DeGeorge, 21, of Irwin.

“It's great,” DeGeorge said. “It's really fun, and not scary.”

Reid worked with DeGeorge for eight years to get her off the beginner's hill and ready to compete at the Special Olympics for the first time in 2012. DeGeorge's twin sister, Shari, decided a few years ago that she didn't want to ski anymore, but Jill DeGeorge stuck with it and owns her own equipment.

“Just seeing her going through the gates for the first time, she was concentrating so hard, and it was just like, ‘All right. You did it.' ” Reid said. “It's that kind of thing (you enjoy), seeing individuals going forward.”

Reid met her husband, an assistant speedskating coach, through Special Olympics. When they married, approximately 40 athletes attended the wedding.

Reid attended the World Games in 1995 and 2009, and encouraged athletes to meet people from different countries.

“You get to see the athletes socialize, and they're in their own environment and they're relaxed,” she said. “It all goes back to self-esteem. Even with my sister being in it, you can't really focus on one memory because there are so many wins here.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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