“On The Road has brought you to Kyle, South Dakota home of the Mustangs. Where in 2017, Special Olympics was brought to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and it is inspiring this community in ways you cannot imagine,” said KELOLAND On the Road host, Mike Huether.

“We call it, ‘God’s country.  God’s country.’  We’re… we’re in the middle of the reservation,” said Norma Brown Bull.

“The school is probably the place that the kids go.  I mean, the school is running all the time.  Right now, we’re doing summer program, we got summer rec going, so the kids always have opportunities to stay active.  So, Kyle is a quiet little town that is a community and everybody helps everybody else.  It’s awesome,” said Brown Bull.

I have met some motivational people in my travels, but Norma Brown Bull, the Special Education Director at Little Wound Schools ranks near the top.  Her dream of a Special Olympics program for the reservations’ students has been executed in a grand way.

“Whenever you have challenges in your life, it’s hard to have a place, an outlet, to do other things and Special Olympics offer them that.  It offers them the chance to be able to compete, ” said Julie Yellow Cloud, a mother of five.

“That gives them the opportunity to grow.  And it also gives them the opportunity to engage with other people who have the same differences that they have, you know, and the same abilities that they have,” said Yellow Cloud.

Julie Yellow Cloud’s son, Riley, is one of 12 Special Olympians that have been positively impacted since the program started 3 years ago. 

“Running down the track and having people cheer for them.  That’s more exciting to them than sitting at home and saying, ‘Whoo, you did great on that X-box game.’  You know, that’s… that’s the world that some of them live in.  And it’s confined and it’s small.  And this program opens everything up for them and allows them to be like every other human being,” said Yellow Cloud.

Track and field, bowling and basketball provide wonderful opportunities to grow, but it is the social engagement that is providing the greatest returns. Special Education teacher James Pratt has witnessed this firsthand. 

“One day, we were having a game here in, our first time we, we didn’t realize how big it would be.  And it’s like the whole school came out and was watching us.  And they were supposed to be in class, but they came watching us.  And we’re playing the Mustangs here.  And we’re winning and everybody’s cheering and one of the guys was ‘coach’, we were the Mustangs.  Isn’t this our own place?”  And the guy looks at him, ‘Not today it’s not.’ (laughter),” said 2nd year Special Education teacher, James Pratt.

“So, you know, Mustang success is not just the varsity or the junior varsity.  It’s the Special Olympics team, too?’ asked Huether.”Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, everybody, you know, when they see them, they talk to them, they encourage, they congratulate them, you know this, you know, they consider them part of the Mustang family,” said Pratt.
Riley’s mom, Julie, feels that welcoming spirit. “You know, as a mother, you want everything for your children,” said Yellow Cloud. “Yeah,” agreed Huether. “But when you have a child that has differences than, than everybody else, you feel like you’re not going to experience the same joys, you know.  But this has helped experience those joys,” said Yellow Cloud. “He’s experiencing all of that.  And he’s excelling at it.  And he’s enjoying it.  And he’s just loving, loving life.” said Yellow Cloud.

Like all KELOLAND communities, we all want what is best for our young people, no matter what challenges life brings them.  That same applies at Little Wound School in the town of Kyle according to Mississippi transplant James Pratt. “Just the way they work with the kids.  They don’t give up on them.  They, they keep, you know, they do what they can for them and they really try to be successful with them,” said Pratt.

Special Olympics has certainly been a worthy investment, no matter the distance. “The school district is already a big district,” said Pratt. “Yes,” agreed Huether. “So, we do have a lot of kids come in for this opportunity because they don’t have it at the other high schools.  And so, I think it’s starting to catch on.  So right now, it’s kind of a rarity.  But, you know, hopefully the other schools can have it and then that will open the door for other students,” said Pratt.

The founder of the program here has already spent 21 years at the school.  Norma Brown Bull, a grandma of five, won’t be here forever.  Right? 

“What’s going to happen when Norma Brown Bull leaves Little Wound Schools?” asked Huether.
“Really (I) don’t want to think about that.  You know, everybody’s day comes sometime, but I think she’ll be there for a while.  If she does come, somebody has got some big shoes to fill,” said Pratt.

“I just have a passion for our students.  I treat every student, like they are my own children.  And I want them to be successful.  You know, one day, I’m going to be old.  And somebody’s gonna have to be here to do this job,” said Norma Brown Bull.
When Norma’s life does take a different path, the students out here in southwestern South Dakota will miss her. “She has got a passion for Special Olympics, for Little Wound schools, but really for these kids,” said Huether. “Oh yeah,” agreed Pratt. “I mean, do you see it?” asked Huether. “Oh yeah. I mean, I see kids all the time come up to her and somethings wrong.  They don’t want to talk to no one but Norma.  Norma.  I don’t know what it is, all she has to do is look at them and they feel better.  Just knowing that she is there.  They feel better,” said Pratt.
Taylor and I felt better after meeting Norma and hearing her wonderful stories, including how the Little Wound Special Olympics team brought home a state basketball title. “It was the weekend.  We got back Sunday late. Got them Monday, they all came to school. They were so excited.  They wore their gold medals. And they were proud, you know, and we had assembly and we honored them with a star quilt.  So, in all the K-12 shook their hand and they were so proud.  It was, it was a good, good thing to see,” recalled Norma Brown Bull. “Where is the star quilt?” asked Huether. “Each of them got a star quilt. So, they got to take it home. (laughter and a clap),” said Brown Bull. If you would like to start your own Special Olympics program in your town, or want to help support Special Olympics, please reach out to the Special Olympics of South Dakota. You can reach them by calling 800-585-21-14 or online at www.SOSD.org.