Recent St. Charles East grad going to U.S. Special Olympics
The Beacon-News - 10/7/2017
Oct. 07--Sports and competition have been a part of Christopher Chavez' life since he was a boy.
"I like to win, I love doing sports, it keeps me motivated, keeps me occupied," said Chavez. "Instead of being lazy and not doing anything, I just like doing something."
His athletic gifts in track and field, in particular, have earned him significant recognition. On Tuesday, the 19-year-old West Chicago resident learned he had qualified for the U.S.Special Olympics'USA Games in Seattle next summer.
His alma mater, St. Charles East School, delivered the news during a surprise announcement at the school. Chavez graduated from St. Charles East in the spring.
A video of the celebration posted online shows Chavez being greeted by students, staff and family before a banner was unfurled stating he had qualified for the USA Games.
"What? All this is for me?" Chavez said as he recalled the announcement. His mother, Sandra Chavez, had driven him to St. Charles East under a different impression, her having known about his qualification only a couple days earlier.
Chavez is one of 46 athletes selected from Illinois to participate in the 2018 USA Games, which will be held in July in Seattle, according to Special Olympics Illinois. Chavez will be competing in running long jump and mini javelin.
Sports such as basketball, karate, and track and field helped him develop and find a place to flourish despite autism, Sandra Chavez said.
Chavez started in outdoor sports when "he was just a tot," she said. However, as the years progressed, his family registered him in more indoor sports and activities.
"The open air environment" of sports like baseball posed challenges for Chavez, "but the (karate) studio and dojo is a smaller space, the curriculum they teach, teaching self-defense and discipline really helped with him being on the autism spectrum," she said.
Chavez took karate for seven years, ultimately getting his black belt. During high school, he also participated in basketball, swimming, bowling and track and field.
But it was his track and field skills that offered Chavez his best chance to gain national recognition. Donna Wisely, a St. Charles East special education teacher and Special Olympics coach, said Chavez earned gold medals in long jump, mini javelin and the 4x100m relay at last spring's local games. The medals qualified him for the state games this summer and eligible for the nomination process.
"Christopher will be seen as a role model to our team for many years to come," she said. "His perseverance and hard work earned him a place in the spotlight, that is admired by us all."
Chavez is currently a student at Judson University, where he hopes he will learn and gain work experience to someday be an athletic trainer. He said the occupation calls to him not only because of his athletic success but a desire to help others.
As for what he hopes others may learn from his success and Special Olympics participation,
"If I had to say something, I would just say to be motivated, stay strong, be encouraged," he said.
(c)2017 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.)
Visit The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.) at www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.