Special Olympian To Be Welcomed Home With Parade In Mountain Top
MOUNTAIN TOP — A Special Olympian from Luzerne County will be given a hero’s welcome this afternoon as he triumphantly returns home from the 2019 World Games with three medals.
Aaron Keller, 21, of Dorrance Twp., won a gold medal and two silvers during the games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he competed against other Special Olympians from around the world.
Aaron, a 2017 Crestwood High School graduate, will be paraded down Route 309 in Mountain Top with a police and fire department escort. The parade begins at 1 p.m. at the Mountain Top Hose. Co. No. 1 bazaar grounds in Fairview Twp. and ends at St. Jude’s Church in Wright Twp.
Organizers from the group Mountain Top on the Move are encouraging people to line Route 309 to show their support.
“We are just so blessed. I’m overwhelmed with how kind this community has been,” Aaron’s mother Donna said. “For him, it will be that final leg of a long journey.”
Donna Keller and her husband couldn’t make the overseas trip to the games, but watched her son compete live in the middle of the night on ESPN3. Abu Dhabi is eight hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone.
“We stayed up and watched, then went to work the next day. We just didn’t want to miss it,” Donna Keller said.
Aaron won a gold medal in the 10K race. He won a silver medal in the 1,500-meter race and a team silver in the 4x100 relay race.
“There were tears in my eyes. We were crying. It took a lot to get to this place in life. It didn’t come easy. It was a thrill to see him succeed,” Donna Keller said.
Aaron and his parents stayed in touch using online video apps during his week-long stay overseas for the competition.
“He called and said, ‘I wanted to get a gold and I got a gold, mom.’ You could tell he is so thrilled,” Donna Keller said.
Aaron, who has intellectual disabilities, started with the Special Olympics when he was 8 years old. He competed in swimming and walking.
“He wasn’t capable of running,” Donna Keller said.
While in middle school, a teacher noticed how good Aaron was at competitive walking and suggested he try running. Soon, Aaron was a member of the school’s track and field team.
“He was the slowest kid in the entire county, but he was competing with typical kids,” Donna Keller said.
His entrance into competitive running helped Aaron excel and gain confidence in the Special Olympics.
“In track, it was always him against his best time,” Donna Keller said. “The Special Olympics was the bridge to the inclusive world. There, he wasn’t always the last place finisher.”
Aaron, who also started long-distance running in high school, now is a volunteer cross-country coach at his alma mater.
Donna Keller said she hopes her son’s story inspires others and encourages people to be more inclusive.
“I really hope it makes a push for people with intellectual disabilities to be included in the community,” Donna Keller said. “There are a lot of people with intellectual disabilities who have great talents.”
Contact the writer: