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Special Olympian Honored In Mountain Top Parade

March 23, 2019
Special Olympian Honored In Mountain Top Parade

FAIRVIEW TWP. — More than a dozen police and fire vehicles paraded down Mountain Boulevard with lights and sirens blaring Saturday afternoon to recognize a local man who recently brought home three medals from the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Special Olympian Aaron Keller, 21, of Dorrance Twp., won a gold medal in the 10K race and brought home a silver medal in the 1,500-meter race and a team silver in the 4x100 relay race.

“It felt great to represent the country and be able to come home with a gold and two silvers,” Keller said before stepping into the passenger seat of a Mountain Top Hose Co. No. 1 engine for his parade.

Keller, who has intellectual disabilities, began competing in swimming and walking with the Special Olympics when he was 8 years old. The 2017 graduate of Crestwood High School took to running after a middle school teacher saw his ability in walking events and suggested he try running.

The competition was stiff at the World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, he said.

“I was nervous, but I just wanted to do my best,” Keller said.

He noted that the team received a warm welcome when they arrived in the Middle East.

“When we landed in Abu Dhabi, they had a nice welcome,” Keller said. “Everyone was chanting ‘USA! USA!’ It was just amazing. We were treated like royalty over there.”

The royal treatment continued during the parade Saturday afternoon as families waving signs and American flags cheered along the parade route.

Dianne Hopersberger, president of Mountain Top on the Move, said the idea for a parade began with a suggestion on Facebook to make Keller grand marshal of the group’s Fourth of July parade. Then she said she suggested doing something right away.

Within a day, the fire and police departments in Mountain Top agreed to participate in what she described as a “mini parade.”

“Everybody is so thrilled,” Hopersberger said. “I mean, there are so many things in life that are challenges. He went beyond the challenge and achieved a huge goal, and it’s just very inspirational for all of us to take that to our hearts.”

Keller’s mother said she is extremely proud of his accomplishments and felt touched to have so much support from the community.

“We’re just blessed to have so much support. We were just amazed,” Donna Keller said. “This was nothing that we had to do with. This was the community that came together to support Aaron. It really was something.”