When you look around the D.C. chapter of the Special Olympics summer games, it’s easy to see that this is as much a competition as it is a party.
No one knows that better than Priscilla Mayo. Even in muggy 87 degree weather, Mayo has a kind word for everyone. There are hundreds of athletes competing this year and she knows many of them by name.
The single parent says this is her support system and her son Jerome’s social circle.
“This is his friends, this is his second family, so he loves it,” she says.
When Jerome was 2 years old, doctors diagnosed him with autism and told Mayo he would never walk or speak, let alone compete in the Special Olympics. For the last two decades, Mayo has made it her mission to beat the odds.
“My thing to the doctor was ‘Are you God? If you are not God you can’t tell me what’s going to happen,’” Mayo says.
Now Jerome is gearing up for the 100-meter dash. Mayo is crossing her fingers. Last year, Jerome didn’t finish. He quit about half way through.
“I guess he was just like forget it. And I said ‘It don’t matter if you come in first, second or third, just keep going. It’s having fun,” she says.
But this year Jerome didn’t stop. Now he has a 4th place ribbon to prove everyone wrong.
This year’s games run through Thursday, but Mayo says she and Jerome are already gearing up for next year.