"Did I get picked today, Mrs. Goudie?"
"No, not today, Nick."
Nick Hilton and his mother, Ola May.
It's a conversation that's played itself out daily since February between Nick Hilton and his adaptive physical education teacher, Anne Goudie. Hilton was chosen as an alternate on Special Olympics USA's snowshoe team for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Hilton's hopes of being named to the team to represent his country are slim. He's faced tougher odds before. He faces tougher odds every day. For now though, he waits.
Hilton is a student at the Beekman Center in Lansing, Mich., a school that services students with intellectual and emotional impairments and also provides life skills and transition activities for moderately cognitively impaired students between the ages of 18-26.
At 24-years-old, Hilton is on track to receive a certificate of completion in 2018 - a feat for which he's very proud. Not only because of what it will mean to him, but because of what it will mean to his mother, Ola May.
Nick Hilton practices snowshoeing during Special Olympics USA training camp in Killington, Vermont in December 2016.
Hilton and his mother live in subsidized, low-income housing in the greater Lansing area. Ola May works the night shift as a custodian at a local hospital. She doesn't have a phone and her car is unreliable. By the time Ola May comes home from work each morning, Hilton is gone for school. It's a difficult routine, but it's theirs and they make it work. They don't have any other choice.
As a single mom, Ola May works hard to provide for Hilton as best she can, but saving money to potentially send him to Austria was going to be an uphill battle. Thankfully, Anne Goudie and the local Special Olympics program, of which Goudie is also the director, stepped in to help offset the cost through fundraising. When it came time to apply for a passport, even that process became somewhat difficult when Nick needed to provide his proof of residency.
"The only bill Nick had to prove where he and his mother live was a shutoff notice from their cable company," recalls Goudie. "He's such a great young man, and if anyone deserves to go to Austria, it's Nick."
It's November 2016, Special Olympics Michigan receives word that one of its snowshoe athletes can no longer attend the World Games due to personal reasons. Passport now in hand, and nearly nine months after being named an alternate, Nick gets word from his teacher that his wait is over and his dream of competing in the World Games has come true.
"Thank God above," said Nick, when asked what went through his mind upon hearing of the news.
"Once I go to Austria, I hope the cameras are rolling and the news people will be talking about it because I want all of my friends in the city of Lansing to be watching me. I'm coming home with the gold and we're having a really big party when I come back!"