Chris Kaul remembers watching his son, Reese, compete with Special Olympics Southern California for the very first time. He wasn’t quite sure what to expect, how his son would react in a competition environment.
Tears flowed, and a decade later it still makes him emotional.
“We cried,” Chris said. “We cried because it was something other than him being stuck in his room and doing nothing.
“[Special Olympics] gets them socialized, teaches them sportsmanship. It gives them competition. It keeps them very, very active and busy, and in a very positive atmosphere.”
Reese’s love for sports has only grown. An avid Los Angeles Dodgers fan with a sharp memory, the 21-year-old has a knack for memorizing baseball statistics.
Reese competes in basketball, bowling and softball for Simi Valley in the Ventura County region. On this particular day, he had just finished off a gold-medal performance and bowled a combined 486 in the individual competition at the 2018 Ventura County Regional competition at Buena Lanes.
But even with the medal already draped around his neck, Reese made his way over to the other end of the bowling alley to watch his fellow Simi Valley Alley Cats teammates compete.
“You’ve got this! Roll it straight!” he shouted.
“It’s helped me improve my social skills, talking to people,” Reese would later say about the ways Special Olympics has helped him beyond sports.
Yeah, that much was pretty clear.
That scene was a long way from the time Chris and his wife Pam first learned of their son’s intellectual disability, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome. In fact, it wasn’t entirely clear at first.
The rare disorder mirrors autism, Chris said, and often times individuals are misdiagnosed.
As Reese became more involved with SOSC, so did his parents; both coach for Ventura County. The infectious atmosphere and community affects more than just the athletes.
“I think Special Olympics, as a whole, just instills inclusion and acceptance,” Chris said.