Barrington’s own 18-year-old Jake McManus will represent Illinois competing in equestrian at the Special Olympics Word Games Los Angeles this summer. Jake, who has autism, is one of only 15 athletes and 8 coaches who were chosen to represent Illinois out of nearly 500 participants on the Special Olympics USA delegation. This group will join more than 7,000 athletes from 177 nations who will compete in 25 Olympic-type sports from July 25th through August 2nd in Los Angeles.
Jake began a therapeutic horseback riding at age 5. He was non-verbal at the time. His family credits horses and Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Center with helping him develop social and academic skills and create a vocational path.
At the age of nine, Jake began competing in Special Olympics and has competed annually ever since. His parents, Stacie and Michael, feel horseback riding has been an integral part of his success. “He used to do spelling words and addition and subtraction on the back of a horse when he was younger,” says Stacie.
Jake has ridden both English and Western seats in a variety of classes to further challenge his riding skills. He says his favorite part of competing has been winning, but his parents are grateful for the bonds he has developed with the horses, coaches and volunteers. “My favorite memory of his Special Olympics competitions was when he competed in English Dressage one year,” Stacie remembers. “When he took his final salute at the end he turned to the crowd and said, ‘You’ve been a great audience. Thanks for coming and good night,’ and rode out of the arena.”
In addition to gearing up for the 2015 World Games, Jake and his family will also be running in the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America when it passes through Chicago in June. The McManus Family will be a part of the Captive Resources Team – a team that has currently raised more than $17,000.
(CLICK HERE to support the McManus Family’s Captive Resources Team.)
The Unified Relay gives anyone in the country a chance to carry the Flame of Hope that will be lit in Athens, Greece, and help deliver it to Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Over the course of 46 days, in a hand-to-hand exchange, thousands of participants will run, walk or bike a segment of the relay in this team and individual fundraising event as it passes through all 50 states via 3 routes. The relay will culminate at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles on July 25.
For more information and to register, please visit the Special Olympics of Illinois’ website at soill.org/unified-relay.