Parents of special needs athletes concerned about the lack of a coordinator

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — There’s growing concern from parents of special needs athletes in Decatur who fear that the city’s plans to replace the Recreation Coordinator- Therapeutics position is moving too slowly.

Kellie Sims, the coordinator for the past 27 years retired in December.

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Samantha and Hunter are Special Olympics athletes who have been training for competitions at the Fort Decatur Recreation Center for decades.

They both look forward to socialization while reaching their full potential through swimming, basketball, and bowling.

“I love it because it’s my favorite thing. It’s mostly everything I’ve got,” said Samantha.

“He gets to be with friends and to compete. It’s part of his lifeline, said Cam Harris, Hunter’s mother.

Both have relied on a coordinator who assists parents and caregivers in getting their athletes prepared for pre-Olympic trials and qualifying events.

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Sarah Malinowski said her sister could not attend a qualifying swim meet in Birmingham due to the lack of a coordinator. It’s one of the events that her sister has competed in for the past 29 years.

“We had paperwork that was not filed that met the deadlines to be able to compete and we were told that we needed to take care of it ourselves as parents and caregivers to ensure that our athletes would be able to compete,” Malinowski explained.

In a meeting held in April, parks and recreation and city officials informed the nearly 300 parents and guardians in attendance that they are making every effort to hire a new coordinator.

In response in a statement to News 19, the Point Mallard Park supervisor said in part:

“We have already met with parents to clear up some misinformation about the city not filling the position. The Recreation Coordinator- Therapeutics position is currently open and posted on the City of Decatur website.”

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However, the parents say their athletes need the sports program coordinator to compete in the Special Olympics.

“It gives them the ability to go out and show people what they can do because most people don’t understand the stuff that they can achieve,” said Samantha’s mother Teresa Busby.

“I’m a very optimistic person but as I said I’m very sad,” said Harris. “My heart has been hurt by all of this.”

Malinowski says the parents and guardians of the athletes plan to face the city council in the next scheduled meeting.

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