The ‘Amazing’ Olivia Cline

As Toyota gears up to sponsor the Special Olympics World Games, the daughter of Hometown Toyota’s parts manager is breaking down barriers
by Dan Nied
May/June 2015
The ‘Amazing’ Olivia Cline
A Very Special Relationship
As Olivia Cline makes her way to the Special Olympics World Games, her father and Hometown Toyota Parts Manager Erik Cline marvels at his daughter’s strength every day.
Photos by Paul S. Howell
No, it wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t supposed to be easy.

Erik Cline and his wife Roxanna noticed their infant daughter, Olivia, wasn’t crawling or talking like other babies her age.

They went to a doctor to find the problem. Then, found out their little girl had Cerebral Palsy. A birth deformity of her cerebellum would hinder Olivia’s speech and coordination. Walking and talking would be delayed. She would learn a little slower, react a little slower.

“We still don’t have any idea what caused it,” Erik says. “It just is what it is.”

So no, it wasn’t easy raising Olivia. But many of life’s greatest gifts don’t come easy.

Hometown Support
When Erik jumps into the pool during Olivia’s swim practice, he knows he’s in for some teasing.

“I splash him all the time just to be funny,” Olivia says.

Erik sees it differently.

“I think she’s trying to drown me,” he quips.

Olivia is 18 now, and she’s training for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, of which Toyota is the official automotive sponsor. Olivia qualified for Team USA by winning a gold medal at the Idaho State Games and then winning a drawing of qualified athletes. She’ll compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter backstroke and 4x50 relay during the games in Los Angeles on July 25-Aug. 2.

Her success means a lot not only to Erik, but to his colleagues at Hometown Toyota in Ontario, Ore. Erik is the parts manager at the store, and Dealer Principals Steve and Marisa Dominguez have been ardent supporters of both Olivia and the Special Olympics as a whole.

“The challenges that these boys and girls and men and women face are tremendous,” Steve Dominguez says. “To see the spirit and courage these athletes have is just amazing to me.”

The Dominguezes are showing that spirit by donating a 2015 Corolla to the Special Olympics Idaho (Ontario is on the Idaho/Oregon border, about an hour drive from Boise.). They hope to raise $200,000 for the organization by selling raffle tickets.

It’s just a gesture from the dealership to make sure Olivia—and her fellow athletes—can keep splashing all the way to the World Games.

A Very Special Olympian
Olivia was 13 when family friend Tim Hughes encouraged her to participate on the Four Rivers Special Olympics Team. Since then, she’s also competed in floor hockey, soccer and track.

Immediately after she began competing, Erik and Roxanna could see the positive impact. Her coordination and muscle tone improved, especially in the usually difficult autumn months.

 

Showing Support 
Hometown Toyota Dealer Principals Steve (pictured) and Marisa Dominguez are ardent supporters of Olivia and the Special Olympics. “To see the spirit and courage these athletes have is just amazing to me,” says Steve.


Sports have always been a big part of Olivia’s life. Even before the Special Olympics, she played soccer, basketball and T-ball in local youth programs. She has also participated in track and cross country for New Plymouth High School, where she was chosen for the homecoming court two years in a row. She’s a senior now, taking regular classes with an aide to help her take notes and study.

Running cross country at a regular school, Olivia knows she isn’t going to win many races. But she may be the most valuable runner on the team. Last season, her teammates voted her “Most Inspirational” as she earned her varsity letter.

“She’s very inspiring to her cross country teammates,” Erik says. “She’s either last or second-to-last in every cross country meet, but she doesn’t give up. She has made improvements every year she has competed.”

And maybe that’s the point of the whole thing: To improve. To compete. To inspire. The power of sports is its test of will and character. It has a unique way of pushing athletes past what they thought was possible.

The Special Olympics magnifies that, serving as a way for those with special needs to experience competition and break down limits set in place by themselves or outside factors.

Looking Ahead
Seventeen years after Olivia’s diagnosis, Erik is talking about his daughter’s future. She wants to go to the local community college and then transfer to Boise State University. Maybe she’ll become a teacher’s aide one day. Maybe she’ll choose a different path.

“We’re trying to keep her involved in all the stuff she loves so she can function on her own at some point,” Erik says. “No one can say for sure whether she will or won’t, but we really believe she will. She’s surprised us her whole life.”

“We know she’s going to have lots of challenges in her life, but she’s become very strong,” says Erik. “And Special Olympics has helped make her more mature, and more responsible.

“She can be amazing. She’s very amazing already.”
 
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