Ackerman epitomizes SOL’s spirit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / February 24, 2000

NORCO – “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”That is the oath that all Special Olympians must recite. And few epitomizesthose words more than Steve Ackerman, a native of Norco.

Ackerman was recently named the Outstanding Special Olympics Male Athlete of the Year by Special Olympics Louisiana. He will be honored along with 12other athletes, volunteers, families, corporate benefactors and media agencies at the “Spirit of Special Olympics” awards banquet in Lake Charles in September.

Ackerman, the youngest of nine children was born with Down Syndrome in 1974. He would battle pneumonia for the first 13 months of his life and haveto deal with the loss of both a brother and his father by the time he was 4.

But Ackerman has refused to stay down. He became involved in SpecialOlympics in 1984 when a teacher at Norco Elementary began taking him to track and field events. Ackerman has excelled in athletics ever since, winnernumerous awards and ribbons, including 28 gold medals. He competes in anumber of sports, including T-ball, bocce, softball and track field but his favorite sports are bowling and swimming.

But the 26-year-old is not just in it for the competition. He also enjoys thesocializing that goes along with it.

“Seeing my friends, meeting my old friends and my new friends,” Ackerman said of what he enjoys about the competitions.

His mother, Barbara, who is also a volunteer for Special Olympics, agrees.

“His friends are a big motivation for him,” Barbara Ackerman said. “Hedoesn’t stick to just one person. He talks to everybody.”The Outstanding Athlete of the Year Award is not just for what Ackerman has accomplished athletically but also for what he has accomplished in his life. Ackerman graduated from Destrehan High School in May 1996 afterbeing on the honor roll throughout his high school career. He was also namedMost School Spirit by his fellow classmates.

Ackerman competed on the school’s swim team in the 100-yard butterfly, the 50-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard freestyle, earning a letter in his senior year. He also competed for the Sun Villa Country Club Sharks.Ackerman is also an accomplished dancer. He won a dance and exercisecompetition at Norco Elementary a dance contest while at Destrehan High School. And last month, he came in first place at a dance contest held at theAlario Center.

Ackerman is currently working for Greaud’s Fine Foods where he fronts shelves, gathers buggies and helps clean the store. He will resume swimmingthis week and has a bowling tournament in Baton Rouge beginning March 10.

But no matter how he does, his mother said she is still proud of him.

It’s thrilling,” Barbara Ackerman said. “It’s exciting. I tell him whether hewins or loses, he wins because he’s doing things I can’t do.”

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