When the VanHoesens’ decided to put a swimming pool in their backyard six years ago, they did what any parent would do; enroll their children in swimming lessons. But what started out as simple swimming lessons for their six children, turned into SO much more for their Girl Scout daughter Allison, who happens to have Down Syndrome.
During her first few lessons, Michelle Ruffin, aquatics director of the YMCA at the time, noticed Allison’s natural talent and recruited her to join a non-competitive swim team.
Allison has come a long way since her first swim meet where she was dropped in the pool with a safety belt made out of a pool noodle and was told to “chase” Michelle down the side of the pool! Allison has since joined a competitive swim team and has competed in the Special Olympics, winning more than 25 medals at the local and state levels.
Today, Allison swims competitively on Team Swim Academy at the Blue Springs YMCA. When she’s not in the pool she is keeping up with her five siblings and participating in Girl Scout activities!
This summer, Allison will be taking her swimming skills to the next level where she will compete in the Trisomy Games in Florence, Italy from July 15 – 22. The Trisomy Games are the Olympics for those with Down Syndrome!
Kindra VanHoesen discovered or actually stumbled upon the Trisomy Games two years ago when she was looking for additional swimming opportunities for Allison. Their website had times posted for the swimming champions that year and she realized that Allison’s times were really close, and she was only 12. This realization sparked a conversation with Allison’s swim coach Julie Wriley about what training might look like for Allison if she wanted to compete in the 13 – 18 age bracket at the next games. Julie told her that Allison could “totally beat those those times!”
“Swimming is one of my favorite passions and breaking records is my favorite thing,” Allison said!
Allison will be on Team USA with seven other swimmers in her age division. She will compete in in the 100 meter free, 100 meter backstroke, 50 meter free and is currently working on qualifying for the 50 meter backstroke; and she will also swim in at least one relay!
“Allison knows that going to Italy is a big deal and super special,” Kindra explained.
There are a lot of similarities between swimming and Girl Scouts according to Allison. Her younger sisters are in Girl Scouts, one is a swimmer too. She works hard in both. She has to practice swimming and practice being a Girl Scout by taking on new challenges. And both activities give her a chance to show off those three important Cs – Courage, Confidence, and Character!
“Kids on her team don’t see her as disabled, she’s a teammate. She’s a just a Girl Scout, not a disabled kid. In both settings, there are people to help her through, support her,” Kindra explained.
Allison is working hard now to qualify for that last event at the Trisomy games and Kindra is finalizing everything for their first trip overseas! If you’re interested in learning more about the Trisomy Games and Allison’s journey to the games this summer, visit her website: www.Allison4Gold.com.
Allison, you have countless Girl Scout sisters cheering you on! We can’t wait to see all the medals you bring home!!