HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Special Olympics is an organization founded on inclusion and acceptance. But one North Shore athlete found herself excluded and her family is searching for a way to allow their daughter to compete.
The Special Olympics Hawaii Summer Games is just around the corner and 10-year-old Briar Daniel has been swimming four to five days a week to prepare.
But just weeks ago, Daniel found out she would not be allowed to participate due to a state wide rule requiring athletes to partake in a local area games in order to qualify for the state wide event. So Briar's mother, Terra Daniel, asked Special Olympics Hawaii for an exception.
"It was the beginning of February I received the dates saying that the area games would be on April 23rd I immediately replied and said We will be out of the country on April 23rd, is there anyway we can attend another area game for Briar to compete?' And I was told 'no that's against the rules, she's not allowed to.' So I called Special Olympics head quarters and they said that is not a Special Olympics rule, that is a state rule that they can change makes it more real and they'll work with you."
So the Daniel family reached out to Special Olympics Hawaii CEO, Nancy Bottelo, hoping to find a solution.
"There's another area game happening on Maui just coming up this weekend in March so we offered to go to Maui to compete there to meet the requirement," Briar's father, Jeremy Daniel said. "But they said we would not be able to compete in the Maui competition either."
The family's request for an exemption that would allow Briar to participate in the Summer Games was even presented to a committee compiled by Special Olympics Hawaii, who unanimously decided to uphold the original rule.
"When we heard that a board was going to review it, we thought this is awesome, obviously this was the right thing to do," Jeremy Daniel said.
"So we were shocked when it came back and disappointed," Terra Daniel said. "So you know I have a ten year old daughter who like other children with disabilities wakes up and faces more challenges in one day than most of us face in a lifetime and they just want to belong somewhere she's not swimming for a scholarship, she's not swimming for a sponsor, she's swimming to belong and that's what needs to happen."
The Daniel family has started a petition, hoping that Special Olympics will reverse its ruling.
Special Olympics Hawaii issued this statement: