SPECIAL Olympian Darius Gookool was pleasantly surprised when team members showed up at his home in St Julien’s Village, Princes Town, to comfort him after his family’s home was destroyed by fire.
Gookool, 24, could not wipe the smile off his face as Special Olympics coaches and teammates, some of whom can communicate in sign language, were able to engage him for the first time since the May 26 tragedy.
His parents David Gookool and Aruna Mohammed told Newsday after the fire which destroyed the rental home they shared with other tenants, Darius went into a state of depression.
Being hearing-impaired, they said, caused him to withdraw internally, as he had no one to communicate with, for him to express any kind of emotional trauma he would have experienced.
While his parents were able to get some closure, and receive phone calls from friends and relatives, that was not the case for their son. This depression went on for months as the family tries to piece their lives together. The family is staying by a friend who lives nearby.
Worried about his mental health, coach Claudia Francis decided to pay him a surprise visit on July 17.
In preparation for the visit, his mom told him some friends were dropping by.
“When he saw his coach and teammates, he was shocked. Tears came to his eyes. For months he was not doing very well, but this visit brought him back to life,” his grateful mother said.
“He was across the road by a neighbour when we came up. He was across the road when he first saw us and his face just lit up,” Francis said.
Immediately, hugs and high fives were exchanged as Gookool got all animated with his mates, catching up on months they were apart due to covid19.
He took them on a tour of parts of burnt-out building that appeared to be still solid, showing the area in which his room was situated.
The team came bearing gifts of clothes and household items. A team member also presented Mohammed with a cash donation from her family.
Interpreter Ron Wiltshire of the National Centre for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) communicated Gookool’s gratitude for the team coming to spend this time with him.
He was also happy that they were able to share doughnuts and the drinks which team brought along, recreating the moments they normally shared a meal after every training session.
“We were happy to see him in his natural element,” Francis said.
She said plans are on the table to have him and the team get back into some training to learn floor ball, a sport they were learning for the first time before covid19, to prevent him from going into further depression.
Gookool, a floor hockey player, represented TT at the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 in Austria. His dad David said he was also due to travel to Russia earlier this year to represent TT again, but that opportunity was denied due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.
David said with the help of San Fernando East MP Brian Manning, the family is hoping to get a house from the HDC, to either rent or purchase as the home which was burnt was a rental.
He said investigations are still continuing into what may have caused that fire which left 13 people homeless.
David expressed gratitude for all the help the family has received and was even able to share some of the items he received from good Samaritans, with the Gasparillo family who also lost loved ones when their home was also destroyed by a fire, last month.