Lizzie Bostrom is a golden girl.
She has won so many gold medals in Special Olympics competition that it has become a real issue finding the room to store them.
'She has won hundreds of gold medals,' said Jacqui Bostrom, Lizzie's mother.
And then there are all of the silver medals!
But Lizzie will somehow find room for all those medals because now she is set to compete in cross-country skiing at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho in February of next year.
Three thousand athletes from 85 countries all over the world will be competing in the winterland storybook setting, and Lizzie will even be bringing her own rooting section, including three of her four sisters.
'We've rented a house,' Jacqui said.
But even if another gold medal is not draped around Lizzie Bostrom's neck, she has already triumphed. As a person with autism, she has achieved a full, active life full of accomplishment and purpose. Best of all, she gives hope to other people with challenges.
This has happened because Lizzie and her family have not shied away from what autism represents.
'We have tried to work with autism and do the best we can,' Jacqui said. 'It has helped a lot since we faced the facts.'
Lizzie's best is very good. Besides being a champion cross-country skier, she has done swimming, skiing, track, softball, bowling, and hiking.
'She's my hiking buddy,' Jacqui said. 'She beats my pants off.'
Mother and daughter are also avid mushroom hunters, and Lizzie's other favorite activities include computer games, reading, watching TV, and being 'a really big Blazers fan.'
But the thing that makes Jacqui most proud is that Lizzie has held a job at Safeway in Lake Grove for the past 17 years, even passing the Secret Shopper test perfectly. The job enables her to pay for her training out of her own pocket, and mom says, 'It's not cheap.'
It is the Special Olympics, though, that have perhaps enriched Lizzie's life the most. She started at age 10.
'The thing I like best about it is that I've made a lot of new friends,' Lizzie said. 'I also enjoy going on bus trips and training.'
'I would encourage any parent who has a child with special challenges to put them in the Special Olympics,' Jacqui said.
Of course, it has also been nice to win all of those gold medals.
But even with all of her success Lizzie was unable to reach her ultimate goal of making the World Games. That is until this year, when the qualification process was changed to a lottery system that better enables the best athletes to compete. With her most recent gold medals in state and regional competition in cross-country skiing, that is where Lizzie belonged.
Jacqui said, 'It's run just like the regular Olympics, with fancy opening and closing ceremonies and special team uniforms.'
There is just one thing that would have made this experience perfect for Lizzie, the presence of her father Roald. He was intensely involved in Lizzie's life, taking her on trips to Disneyland and Disneyworld. However, he passed away seven years ago from a brain tumor.
'He would have been so proud,' Jacqui said. Lizzie thinks he still will be proud.
'He will be there in spirit,' she said.