“Come on Mik, come on Mik, come on Mik” the urgency in the call grew in intensity with each step her brother put forward. Ellie Hafez, 15, was waving her arms and encouraging her older brother to stay in his lane, keep running and meet her at the finish line of his 200m race at the 2012 Special Olympics NC Summer Games. Mik, 18, of Chapel Hill, has only been competing in Special Olympics for two years. He was the last to finish his race but he was greeted by and uproar of cheers from the volunteers and other fans watching. His sister jumped on Mik and gave him a hug. He smiled and she beamed with pride as they made their way towards the awards stand. Every race Mik participates in brings tears of joy to his parents Sara and Cherif Hafez.
“We moved to Chapel Hill six years ago in the hopes of finding new opportunities for Mik,” said his father. “His family was his one constant and now he’s just at home with Special Olympics coaches and friends. It’s been amazing. Special Olympics is allowing him to develop into himself.”
The Haefz family came out to a track practice in 2011 and fell in love with the Special Olympics Orange County program. Mik’s first season was memorable. He learned to stay in his lane and complete the 100m and 200m races.
“Like a lot of athletes when he first came we weren’t sure he could walk 100m but we got him focused and now he runs the 100m, 200m and this year can even do the 400m,” said Bernie Prabucki Special Olympics Orange County track coach. “I’m so proud of him. And it’s in large part due to the dedication of Mik’s family. Their enthusiasm is amazing and they are so supportive.”
Mik’s 2011 SONC Summer Games experience is one his parents will never forget.
“Everyone in the stands was chanting his name last year,” said his mom full of emotion. “I was crying then and I’m crying now. It was one of the best moments ever. He heard them and was looking up smiling. I’ll just never forget it. That’s what Special Olympics has been like for us. We did this to make Mik happy but it’s made us all happy.”
This year Mik’s sister is an assistant coach and that has helped him engage even more with his peers.
He’s gaining more independence and really enjoys it,” said his dad. At the dance, he left us and only occasionally looked over to check in with us. He even did the train dance with his sister and others and that was just huge for us to see. He’s definitely gained a lot of confidence over the last two years.”
Mik went home celebrating with a gold medal in the 100m dash and a participant’s ribbon for his 200m performance but his family went home celebrating Mik’s accomplishments on and off the track. Special Olympics has opened up the world to Mik and he’s embracing it!