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Athletes shine like gold at Special Olympics

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PROVO — It was the second day and promised another chance to fulfill dreams for gold.

And Friday was CJ Weaver's time to shine.

CJ, from Sunset, has been participating in the Special Olympics summer games for two years, but it isn't the medals that keep him coming back.

The events provide an "opportunity to meet a lot of new friends," said Wendy Weaver, CJ's mother.

Even outside of the Special Olympics, CJ is known by friends and family for having an outgoing personality, but it is the summer games where Wendy Weaver says his personality really shines.

CJ spends most of his days like other kids — spending time at school with his friends, learning, laughing and socializing.

Once he arrives home, CJ is cruising the neighborhood on his bike.

Not only is cycling a passion for him at home, but when asked what he liked about the summer games, CJ said, "Cycling!"

CJ picked up two gold medals in Friday's cycling events — adding a little shine to his passion.

Wendy Weaver said the summer games have earned a special place in her heart when it comes to her son — noting that the Special Olympics provides an opportunity for hundreds of physically and mentally disabled people to participate in athletics.

Wendy Weaver said CJ's disabilities limit his opportunities to participate in athletic events at school, but the summer games give him the chance to be a part of sports.

As a parent, she said she feels proud of her son when he wins a medal but is more excited because he's accomplishing something.

This wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the Special Olympics, Weaver said.

Being involved and participating with others is what CJ loves to do. In Sunset, CJ participated in an organization called Project Pride until the program dissolved. That left him with few opportunities for socializing until he started going to school. Things got even better when he got involved in the Special Olympics.

CJ loves to be involved, and his mother believes that "he is just happy to be here to participate."

CJ's outgoing personality and concern for others became readily evident Friday as he stood by somewhat impatiently as his family spoke with the Deseret Morning News.

Standing in the sun, he repeatedly reminded the group, "It's hot." Then he disappeared and a few minutes later came hurrying back with two cups of water — one for the reporter and one for himself. That was CJ's way of reminding everyone that while winning is fun, the summer games are more about getting to know people and making sure others also have a chance to shine.

E-mail: rhugh@desnews.com