by Lisa Tome
Brandon Lowinski is unique enough to compete in Cecil's Special Olympics.
His classmates never noticed.
Lowinski, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Rising Sun Elementary School, has autism and anxiety disorder. He was diagnosed eight years ago and is fully integrated in school.
He competed in Special Olympics for this first time this year, and collected three medals - two gold and one silver, at the event two weeks ago.
His experience touched many lives.
Back in April, teacher Rebecca Smolenski began recruiting fellow students who would serve as Brandon's "trainers".
In order to qualify, students gave up their recess two days a week to work with Brandon for his events - the softball throw, 15 meter run, and long jump. Smolenski said she wanted to find student trainers who were both nurturing and who would understand the meaning of Special Olympics.
Fifth graders Paige Saubier, Xander Bauguess, Carley Kilgore, and Derek Strojny were the chosen trainers. Lowinski was also supported by Smolenski and teacher Marie Berg.
Bauguess said it was worth it to give up recess. "I knew how happy it made him," said Bauguess.
"We got to help him. It was nice to see him have a smile on his face. And I had a good time doing it," said Saubier.
"I liked how excited he was and full of joy during the (training) sessions," said Strojny.
"I knew it would pay off from him. I'm so happy to see him happy," said Kilgore.
The quartet was also thrilled to attend the Special Olympics.
"It's nice to see how they can't do what we can do but they do other things to make themselves happy," said Saubier.
"He was the one working for it and I'm really glad he won," said Strojny.
All four fifth graders said they would give up their recess and train someone again. "They (chosen trainers) understand and love him. They have a nurturing compassionate bond. There are very motivating and excellent students," said Smolenski. She said the parents of the trainers were also accepting and said they were glad to share the experience. They were recruited to provide transportation for their children to be spectators and cheer for Brandon.
Smolenski said Brandon's Special Olympics experience was shared by his entire class. "It was a good month of excitement and acceptance. We've had a blast. Brandon is such a gift," she said.
While the school experience was a positive one, Special Olympics also impacted Brandon's life at home.
"He would come home excited everyday. I thought it was awesome," said Brandon's mother, Danielle Lowinski.
"You hear about bad things that kids do. They were all focussed on Brandon. He felt like a super star. They were there at the games paying attention and encouraging him," she said.
"When he went to school, I honestly thought he wouldn't have any friends and wouldn't be accepted. I think the school does a great job. They treat him like they treat every other kid. To a parent, that is everything," she said.
"The teachers here are special. They have stepped up and done a good job throughout the years. My husband, Rob, he was really excited to see the acceptance," she said.
Rising Sun Elementary also supported Brandon's quest for gold everyday on the morning announcements. A pep rally was held at the school.
After the games, there was also an ice cream party and a pizza lunch celebration. Brandon was still wearing his medals to school three days after the olympics were over.
"They said 'good job' and 'Brandon, you rule'," said Brandon Lowinski. "This is my legacy to win Special Olympics. Before Special Olympics my friends did a pep rally. Everything is cool. People are so awesome to me. It's like everyone in the whole world loves me."