Amber Collins – Special Olympics Athlete and Camelot Graduate
For children diagnosed with a disability, participation in the Special Olympics can change their lives, and such is the case with Amber Collins.
Collins is an extraordinary graduate from Camelot’s Northwest Center for Autism (NWCA) in Genoa, IL. She has been a Camelot student for approximately seven years and has been an active participant in the Special Olympics nearly all of that time. Amber does it all and has won many medals over the years by participating in the winter and spring games in snowshoeing, running, basketball, and the long jump.
“She’s excelled at the (Northwest) Center for Autism,” said Amber’s mother, Lauri Krajecki. “She always loved running, which used to get her into trouble, but the Special Olympics gave her a channel to focus her energies into something very positive. She’s always excited about participating in the games. It’s an event she really enjoys.”
NWCA provides academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and young adults, ages 3 through 21, with extraordinary needs including autism, multiple disabilities, emotional disabilities, and other health impairments. After a successful tenure at NWCA, Amber will rejoin her home school district’s adult program this fall.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with disabilities. This experience gives them continuous opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
“For participants in Special Olympics, it’s about what the athletes can do, not what they can’t,” said Niamh Welp, principal of NWCA. “What’s important about Special Olympic athletes is they get to compete at their skill level. It’s about trying your hardest for yourself. The family support is amazing, as is everyone who volunteers to help at the events; people want to be out there. It’s one of my favorite days. The students, the staff, the families all work together. Amber has seen a lot of growth in behavior and academics at NWCA, and utilizing sports as her outlet has played a tremendous role in shaping her character. She has come tremendously far. It’s beautiful what she’s accomplished for herself.”
In 2016, Camelot’s Northwest Center for Autism moved to a larger facility, enabling the dedicated staff to offer more programs and help more students. NWCA has served children on the autism spectrum since 1999.
Amber’s mother said she is so proud of her daughter.
“When she first started at Camelot, it was a long journey for her, for everyone really. But the staff is exceptional, and they really worked hard with her. It’s amazing seeing the differences in her. They helped mold her into the positive and confident young woman she is today.”