“Pick it up Paula, pick it up.” These were the words running through Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete Paula Cezar’s mind as she was approaching the finish line at the 2023 Boston Jolly Jaunt.
The Annual Boston Jolly Jaunt is a fundraiser which involves a timed 5k course with a festive holiday theme. Paula and her two best friends, Beth Donahue and Erin Delahunty, ran this year’s Boston Jolly Jaunt hand in hand, continuously encouraging one another as they ran around Boston’s Back Bay.
As the three athletes set about on the last mile, Paula felt her legs begin to slow down. Paula was born with a disability which causes her whole body to shake quite frequently. Due to the timed element of the race, Paula encouraged her two friends to go on without her.
Rounding the corner to the final stretch, Erin and Beth saw Paula fighting for the finish line. They knew exactly what they had to do next.
“We wanted to support her and make her feel good, that way she’s not finishing by herself,” Erin explained.
Moments after finishing the race, they began to back track—running down the road to meet up with Paula who was yet to finish.
The three women, hand in hand once again, made their way across the finish line together as a team. The determination that they had to help their friend finish the race was clear and truly reflects what it means to be a Special Olympics athlete.
According to Paula, it was her friends’ support and her own positive mindset that ultimately got her to the finish line.
“We just wanted to be there together because we are all good friends,” Explained Erin.
Beth nodded in agreement and added, “I like helping my friends out.”
Overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude, Paula took a moment to reflect on the unconditional love and support coming from both Erin and Beth.
“I feel happy because my two friends always help me,” Paula said as tears began to trickle down her face. “For Christmas, I know I’m going to give to my friends a card that says, ‘thank you for being a good helper.’”
Special Olympics Massachusetts is all about giving athletes, regardless of ability, the opportunity to push themselves and accomplish what some might consider to be the un-thinkable. These three athletes exuded incredible friendship and sportsmanship by going out of their way to help one another succeed and accept one another’s abilities and differences.
Paula aspires to be a positive example for other athletes with various disabilities. She hopes that “Any kind of kid is going to say one day, ‘I’m born this way. Nobody’s going to stop me.’”