A jacket that means so much more

By Gray Hughes

A TRUE LETTERMAN — Sabrina Hedge, a 10th grade student at Hill City High School, received her letterman’s jacket for bowling for two years with the Rapid City Flame, a Special Olympics group based in Rapid City. She started bowling in eighth grade and loves the sport. [Submitted Photo]

It is the dream of every high school athlete to receive their letterman’s jacket.

Sabrina Hedge, a 10th grade student at Hill City High School, received her letterman’s jacket for bowling as part of the Rapid City Flame Special Olympics team.

“It is really awesome,” she said.

Hedge said she likes doing art, her favorite animal is a horse and she loves to bowl with the Special Olympics.

The Rapid City Flame is for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Black Hills, according to its website.

There are 150 athletes from across the Black Hills region that compete with and for the Rapid City Flame.

They participate in Special Olympics Unified Sports, where children and young adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities compete on the same team.

The teams are made up of individuals with similar age and abilities.

This, according to the Flame website, “makes the practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all.”

The Flame say that it is “dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences.”

Wendy Hedge, Sabrina’s mom, said they offer “everything from basketball to track to bowling to swimming.”

“They have a big variety, and this one of the sports that she liked and enjoyed and continued with,” she said of her daughter’s devotion and commitment to bowling.

Sabrina Hedge picked bowling because, she said, she does not like to run.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver,  the Special Olympics is a global community of people dedicated to creating a more inclusive world through sport.

According to the Special Olympics website, there are over five million athletes, over 100,000 competitions and over one million volunteers in 174 countries.

The Rapid City Flame is a recognized program of Special Olympics in South Dakota.

Hedge said she got involved with Special Olympics after one of her teachers brought it to her attention when she was in eighth grade.

“I went to try it out, and I have liked it ever since,” she said.

When the program ended in Hill City, Hedge joined the Rapid City Flame. Hedge received her letterman’s jacket for participating in the sport for two years.

“It is just unbelievable,” Wendy Hedge, said. “She works so hard, she enjoys the sport so much, and then to actually find out that she could letter in something it is unbelievable. It was unbelievable.”

The ceremony was held in the beginning of the month at the Elks Theater in Rapid City.

There, eight athletes, including Sabrina Hedge, received their letterman’s jacket.

“It has given her more self-esteem,” Wendy Hedge said, of what the Special Olympics and Rapid City Flame has done for her daughter. “It has brought up her self-esteem being able to be included in something like this.”

Hill City doesn’t offer many programs such as this, Wendy Hedge said, and when they get programs like this they tend to go away, so for her daughter to be able to accomplish something like this means a lot.

“It is just really cool,” Sabrina Hedge said. “It is really awesome.”