The Ranney family helps their daughter train and volunteer for Special Olympics each year

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By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

TULARE – Every year the Special Olympics, at Bob Mathias Stadium in Tulare, gives people with disabilities a chance to get out and be the stars. But the games go deeper for one Exeter family even to the point of saving the life of their daughter Lisa Ranney.

Ranney began competing in the Special Olympics 24 years ago. During a routine physical prior to one of the Olympics that doctors made some alarming discoveries. They found that Ranney’s blood pressure was extremely high. To make matters worse, further tests revealed she had cardiomyopathy, a serious condition within the muscles of the heart. Worse yet she was also given the news of a rare metabolic disorder that caused high blood pressure. Along with those two conditions she was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia earlier in life. Overall, her health conditions require constant monitoring, frequent blood tests, and powerful medications which in turn can have their own debilitating effects.

The games have played a big part in Ranney’s ability to keep the side effects down to a minimum. Each year she competes in track and field, swimming, bowling, and basketball. This year, due to a foot injury, she competed in the 25-meter walking contest and shot put.

While winning is still a goal with a trip to UC Davis for the state competition, much more is on the line. Participating in the games goes a long way to manage her blood pressure and metabolism. Beyond that, being out and about keeps her mentally sustained as well. Beside the clear cut health aspects of the Olympics, being around the games helps her feel accepted.

“Lisa knows if she is accepted by people or not and being in these games helps her get a sense of self worth,” said Jenny Ranney, Lisa’s mother. “Just as any normal person would take pride in their accomplishments she takes pride in hers.”

Isolation caused by a sense of being different either brought on from within or society can be a problem for people with the same disabilities as Lisa. The games allow them to achieve a goal they set their minds to. More importantly it allows them a sense of normalcy. A few times Lisa has taken her medals to her program, Life Skills Learning Center in Visalia, in order to show them off.

It was a connection when Lisa was young and attending schools in Exeter which got them interested in the organization. Not knowing much about the Special Olympics Jenny and some other friends thought it would be a fun activity for their children. It has turned out to not only help their kids, but the families as well.

Far too often a sense of isolation can affect the entire family. For Jenny the games have become a lifeline She is able to connect with other parents in a social environment. She also volunteers her time as an official at the games. Her duties often include making sure all the entry forms are filled out and submitted.

“It lets you know that you are not the only one facing the challenges,” Jenny said.

Jenny’s husband and other Ranney family members have also gotten in on the effort over the years. Lisa’s brother, Bobby Ranney, has helped her train in the shot put. Even 11-year old grandson, Jake Ranney, helps train Lisa in swimming, and has already become an advocate for the Special Olympics.

“Even though they have a disability they deserve to be treated like everyone else,” Jake said.

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