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"He's become the loud noise he once feared"

AJ Maynard, of Mattawan, MI, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome, was afraid of a lot of things growing up. But thanks to Special Olympics, his adoptive mother Chris Maynard says, AJ has now become the loud noise he once feared. He started in Special Olympics at age 8, and now competes in events like swimming, basketball, track and maybe the most important of all, skiing. His mother says it was skiing in particular that helped AJ's confidence bloom. After winning a gold medal in the State Regional Games in January and a bronze at the State Winter Games in February, AJ and all Special Olympics athletes look ahead to the summer games with the cold winter weather finally on its way out. Kalamazoo Gazette photographer Chuck Miller spent time with AJ Maynard throughout his preparation for the winter games and during his performance at the State Regional Games for this photo essay (see link).

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See the photo essay