Sara Rosati is a Special Olympics athlete and an inspirational 9-year-old who lives in Hamilton. Sara, who has Down syndrome as well as other medical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, has already learned powerful lessons about life and teaches by example every day. Together with her 14-year-old brother, John, who also has Down syndrome, Sara has been competing for several years in the Special Olympics of New Jersey. In fact, she won a gold medal in the 25-meter run at the summer games in June at the College of New Jersey in Ewing.
When I met Sara, she had a big smile on her face that never left throughout our conversation. She loves to sing and dance and is best friends with her brother. Sara gave me several high-fives during our talk. When I fumbled a question and said something like, “I’m sorry, Sara, that was a stupid question,” she responded, “Stupid is a bad word.” Sara already understands that 90 percent of life is about attitude as opposed to circumstance. It’s about how you deal with what happens to you.
As her mother, Stephanie Rosati-Pratico, told me, “Sara takes every moment and lives it to the fullest. Sara wakes up singing. There is nothing like her relationship with John. It is unconditional; they have an innate understanding of each other. There are times you might not understand what John is saying to Sara, but she understands. John also celebrates and appreciates everything Sara does. When Sara won the gold medal, John could not get to her fast enough. John excels in basketball, and has grown tremendously in the past year.”
Stephanie described the Special Olympics of New Jersey as “a forum where they can be with their peers regardless of their abilities and gain the self esteem and social interaction that typical people get. As a result, we get that typical family experience. The exercise alone is important, and the discipline that Special Olympics teaches, and the strength that comes from having fun, are so important. During the first race Sara ran for Special Olympics, she grabbed her opponent’s hand and they ran across the finish line with huge smiles on their faces.”
Stephanie told me that parents of special needs children have experiences that people with typical children do not have. “They more profoundly appreciate every single step,” she said. “It is like watching a typical child grow up, but in slow motion, because everything takes a little bit longer and you get that much longer to appreciate it.”
As a father, I’m blessed to have three healthy sons. But like any parent, I can only hope that my children live with the kind of spirit, passion, and enthusiasm that Sara does. It has been said that your attitude will ultimately affect your altitude. If that’s the case, when it comes to Sara Rosati’s future, the sky is the limit.
Visit sonj.org to contribute or, better yet, volunteer. As Stephanie told me, “What you will get is far greater than what you could ever give monetarily or otherwise.”
Steve Adubato, PhD., is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and a media analyst and columnist for MSNBC.com. He provides commentary on talk radio station 770-WABC. He is the author of the book "Make the Connection", as well as the soon-to-be published book "What Were They Thinking?", which examines highly publicized and often controversial public relations and media mishaps. For more information, log on to www.stand-deliver.com