A Family Affair, the Keiths

January 18, 2011

Kathy and Doug Keith were warned that their son Jimmy, diagnosed with Down syndrome, might not have the same physical abilities as his twin sister. But the Keiths were determined that their boy would have the chance to play sports. Today, the entire family is involved, cheering at events, playing sports, raising funds to support athletes like their son, coaching, and even starting a program in a new sport -- basketball.

Jimmy Keith stands with his parents and two sisters, joined by their dog

For the Keiths, Special Olympics is a family affair.

“Jimmy's diagnosis with Down syndrome was an unexpected stepping stone, which led us down a very different path than we had planned,” recalls Kathy Keith.

Doctors warned Jimmy’s parents that he may not be as physically able as his twin sister, Julia.  Determined not to let Jimmy’s physical challenges impede his participation in sports, Jimmy’s father, Doug looked into Special Olympics.  Impressed by what he saw, Doug signed up for a golf-a-thon and began a lifelong commitment to fundraising for Special Olympics.


Jimmy and his sister pose with their unified soccer (football) team

Both Jimmy’s twin, Julia, and older sister, Sarah, participate in Unified Sports.

When Jimmy turned eight, he started with Special Olympics in soccer. He wanted to play basketball, too, but there was not a local program. So his mother, Kathy, decided to start one. “If you build it, they will come. This is what I learned as I galvanized a group of parents, athletes and volunteers for basketball that first year.

“On the first night of practice, I thought it would just be Jimmy and a few friends who would come. As it turned out, despite a snowstorm, there was a traffic jam in town with so many people showing up."

Five years later the basketball program has more than 100 participants in Unified Teams -- consisting of Special Olympic athletes and Unified Partner peers who do not have an intellectual disability. Both Jimmy’s sisters participate - his twin sister, Julia, plays with the middle school team and their older sister, Sarah, plays with the high school-age team.


Jimmy Keith poses with his latest ribbon and a HUGE smile

Special Olympics gave Jimmy confidence to succeed on and off the playing field. 

If you talked to Jimmy Keith, you would hear his enthusiasm for school and sports. He plays basketball, soccer, baseball and track & field. He tells us, “Basketball is my favorite, it takes lots of skill.”

His parents credit Special Olympics with giving their son the confidence that helps in every area of his life and Jimmy agrees, “I like that Special Olympics gives me exercise for all the other parts of my life.”

As Kathy tells us, “We have an athletic family. The girls play high school and club sports. We all go to cheer. It’s really nice that we have events for Jimmy too.”


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