Pleasant Hill teen heading to World Special Olympics

Erin Hart earned the opportunity to represent Illinois at the World Special Olympics.

In just over a year, Erin Hart became an International Special Olympics Athlete.

Her parents never imagined the high school student would pick up ice skating so quickly.

Now, Erin is living out her own fairy tale. She ice skates just like her favorite princess in the production that inspired her skating career.

"Disney on ice," Erin said.

She earned the opportunity to represent Illinois at the World Special Olympics. In January she will travel to South Korea to compete for the gold. Erin only started ice skating lessons in September of 2011.

Erin's father, Rawn Hart warns, "Don't ever underestimate what your child can do, because they'll surprise you every time."

Training takes up a lot of her time, but hasn't changed how she feels about skating.

Erin explained, "I choose to skate." Her mother, Kathy Hart, says there are days that Erin gets up at 7 a.m. for school and does not make back home until 10 p.m.

While Erin has been working hard to perfect her skating, the community has been working hard to make sure her family can watch her compete.

"She's not just a little girl going from Pleasant Hill, She's representing the whole area of Western Illinois," Rawn Hart explained. Of the five figure skaters from Illinois, Erin is the only one who's hometown isn't in the Chicago area.

Bake sales, t-shirts, and other various fundraisers are helping cover the costs of the trip. Both parents agree that the community support behind Erin has been amazing. Family and friends across the country, and even overseas are supporting her.

Kathy and Erin travel two hours each way to Springfield three times a week to make sure Erin gets enough practice before the big competition. The trips are sometimes hard to fit in, but the Harts are glad Erin found a sport she loves.

"Having a child with autism, you never know what you're going to get and we've kind of found out that this is something she really enjoys. When she's on the ice, she's in her own little world, she's in the zone. I'd say she's most happy on the ice," Rawn Hart said.

The Harts are still fundraising to go watch Erin compete.

This Saturday, November 3, from 4-7 p.m. the family will hold a benefit dinner at the American legion Hall in Pleasant Hill, Illinois.