Seconds after 39-year-old Jeremy Dobies skied down the slope, his fans posed for pictures to celebrate his feat at the Special Olympics of New Jersey.
“I’m very proud because he had spine surgery in 2016 and he has spinal fusion, and we didn’t know if he’d be able to ski again,” said Jeremy’s mother, Theresa Dobies.
When asked what it was like coming down the slope, Jeremy replied, “Nothing really. Just fast and rough.”
“I was very proud, really proud,” said Amber Melgar, Jeremy’s helper. “I was nervous for him because I dabble a little in snowboarding, but not very good, but he’s taught me a lot and he’s doing excellent.”
“He couldn’t even walk last year, so to see him skiing this year, we’re really proud of him,” said Susan Kolb, executive director of Life With Joy, Inc., a nonprofit for adults with autism.
Kolb’s own son, Arthur, has intellectual disabilities. Wanting a better life for him inspired Kolb to found Life With Joy Inc. two years ago. Jeremy is among those benefiting from the nonprofit’s programs that teach agriculture, cooking, music and even mixed martial arts.
“We don’t believe there are any victims. You can go out there, you can learn to defend yourself, use your body,” said Kolb.
“Very iconic year for this organization, this movement, that we call it, not only in New Jersey but globally. We started in 1968 with a few athletes and a few volunteers and here we are now, an $8.4 million organization in New Jersey, offering these competitions and trainings free of charge,” said Heather Anderson, president and CEO of Special Olympics of New Jersey.
The winter games started in January in South Jersey. This final leg includes two days of fun in the sun, in the snow, and on the slopes as the Olympians compete against each and challenge themselves striving to improve and achieve.
“It really shows their, it’s not even their courage, but their ability. We focus on ability no disabilities. So being able to show their ability on the slopes and on the crosscountry skiing, and even speed skating. It’s just a tremendous effort from all of them that are here this weekend,” said Anderson. “I would say they’re fearless. They have their game face on.”
These special Olympians, their family, friends and helpers say they know what the real competition is.
“It says that there are no stereotypes and they can’t say people with disabilities can’t do things, and can’t work, and can’t hold jobs and can come down a mountain,” said Kolb.