Dumitru - ‘Going for Gold!’
Every year, Fundatia Inocenti sponsors a day of sporting and art activities in Bistrita for children with physical and mental disabilities. It is called the “Olympics of the Innocent” and it is open to children and young people across Bistrita County in Northern Transylvania. It is wildly popular with the participants and their families, and also with local community, who crowd the streets to show their interest and support.
In spite of being confined to a wheelchair, 19-year-old Dumitru is one of our most enthusiastic Olympians, having participated every year in the eight years the games have been held. He has a collection of medals, certificates of achievement and t-shirts from each year and proudly shows them off to any visitors who stop by the house.
“What I enjoy most is the basketball competition, where I get to shoot hoops,” he declares. “I don’t care as much for the drawing and painting contests. When we’re finished with hoops, I like to go down the main street with the rest of the kids and watch the other games being played.”
Dumitru personifies the “Try and Try Again” challenge of sport and of life itself. Abandoned as an infant, he was confined to Beclean Hospital until 2004, when he was placed with a foster family in Nimigea for three years. But he made little progress, socially or emotionally, in adjusting to his handicap in these years.
What a difference the right foster family makes! When Dumitru was placed with a warm and welcoming new family in the town of Nasaud, it was like night and day. He began talking fluently and started mastering new activities. He loves music and poetry and he follows politics. He enjoys computer games and surfing on the Internet. He started attending Lacrima Special School in Nasaud and has become known as a role model student. He’s very fond of Tibi, the outreach worker who checks in with Dumitru on a regular basis.
“My favorite day is when Mr. Tibi visits,” he says. “We talk about new things that I hear from people or from the TV. He listens to me with patience and shares wisdom in return. I feel important when I am treated like a grown man and not a child.”
But nothing compares with that day in May when the torch is lit in the streets of Bistrita, and Dumitru can once again shoot hoops and go for the gold.