(This story originally aired on March 28th, 2017.)
GREAT FALLS — On Saturday Trevor Trainer returned to Montana a world champion.
When he disembarked the plane after a full day of travel, he was met with loud applause from friends, family and teammates. Trevor was exhausted, but sleep could wait. He had people to hug, photos to take and medals to show off.
The 26-year old had captured two gold medals at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria fulfilling a goal and a promise he made before making the trans-Atlantic trip.
Amid the celebration, Trevor made his way over to where Tim and Heather Rohlf were standing and holding a sign that read ‘Go Trevor Go’. He slipped off one of the gold medals from around his neck and handed it to Heather. This was a moment Trevor had been dreaming about for a long time.
“This is for you guys,” he said carefully. “For your wall. I promised you one.”
Heather hugged Trevor tight. And both cracked a smile.
Smiles haven’t been easy to come by for the Rohlf family. Especially on this day.
Saturday marked exactly one year since Tim and Heather’s son Colton Rohlf died in a car crash south of Cascade. He was 23 years old. His loss is still felt by his parents and many more throughout the state.
Colton was a tireless volunteer for Special Olympics Montana –serving as a coach, a unified partner and a friend to all athletes. Trevor and Colton were especially close and spoke almost every day on the phone.
“Trevor is a special kid,” Tim said. “He and my son had a special relationship and our son was his basketball coach and helped him in a lot of other aspects of his life as well. Trevor comes over to our house for dinner and we’ve taken him fishing. He’s become a part of our family.”
Tim paused, before continuing.
“So for Trevor to go to Austria and do his best and to come back and give one of the medals that he won to us so that we can put it on the wall with our son’s memorial. Very special. He’s a very special friend and a good kid.”
Like all Special Olympics athletes, Trevor lives with an intellectual disability that affects the way his cognitive abilities have developed. But it sure doesn’t limit his capacity for compassion and kindness.
“Trevor has a huge heart,” smiled Tim. “He’s very caring and considerate. Just a great all around person.”
“He’s got a lot of qualities that our son has,” she said. “He makes us feel like a little part of (Colton) is still there.”
And when Trevor was standing atop the podium in Austria, his friend was never far from his mind.
“It actually felt pretty good,” he explained. “Because I know Colton’s up there smiling at me.”
Why on earth would we call Trevor disabled, when on the important things – he is much more able than the rest of us.