PLEASANT HILL, Ill. (WGEM) -- Erin Hart didn't need to say much, her smile did all the talking.
It should come as no surprise the Pleasant Hill High School senior won't allow autism to slow her down from becoming an elite Special Olympian and a world class figure skater.
"If there's a place to be at peace with everything going on around her, her's is on the ice," Erin's dad Rawn said.
Erin's career on the ice began some 14 months ago when her mother, Kathy, moved back to Pleasant Hill to attend to Erin's grandfather who was involved in an automobile accident.
Kathy told Erin she could pick one 'fun' thing to participate in. Erin, the astute researcher, found an ice rink in Springfield and wanted to try figure skating.
"If you would have told me a year ago when she started taking lessons in September that we'd be going to South Korea a year later, I would have been like, 'Yeah, what are you smoking?', Kathy explained.
"She comes alive on the ice is what my mom told me and I totally agree with that statement."
Erin and her mom traveled twice a week to the Nelson Center in the state's capitol. Erin was a brilliant study and before too long her instructor told Kathy this was the beginning of something special.
"She's got skills," Kathy said of her daughter.
"She might be different than you or I when it comes to sitting down and having a conversation, but give her something where you can even the playing field and the sky's the limit."
Erin won the State Winter Games earlier this year in Chicago and her gold medal qualified her for a spot in the Special Olympics Winter Games in South Korea in January.
"You couldn't have picked a more perfect child to want to go to Korea," Rawn indicated.
"She is so in to the Asian culture, it's not even funny."
Rawn, a 17-year veteran of the Air Force, has returned home from Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma this weekend as the family hosts a fundraiser raise money to accompany their daughter halfway across the world.
Both parents say they couldn't be more proud.
"Who would have ever thought by coming up here under a bad situation with (my father's) wreck that something so positive and would be such a big boost for her?" Kathy said.
"I would have never imagined it."
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