Blog #211~50 Years of Special Olympics
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This is the motto of the Special Olympics, encouraging athletes to find the courage to give it all you got.
“The torch was first lit on July 2, 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered in a new era for people with intellectual disabilities, when — with 1,000 athletes from three countries — she opened the very first Special Olympics International Games at Soldier Field in Chicago.”
Two weeks ago, the torch returned here to Soldier Field here in Chicago, where it all started. Fifty years later, the games have become a global movement reaching more than 5 million athletes. Sport events include track and field, basketball, bocce, cycling, figure skating, soccer, power lifting, gymnastics, judo, tennis, swimming, skiing and bowling to name a few.
“Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.”
My son Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. Over the years, he has participated in Special Olympics competing in track and field, bocce and bowling. The spirit, camaraderie and dedication of volunteers made the experience very rewarding for Nick and our family. Watching the determined athletes is awe-inspiring.
Nick competing in the 50 yard dash at North Central College…..
Nick showing off his gold medal earned at bowling…..
Nick taking a bow at the top of the podium as they played the olympic theme song. He won the State Special Olympics gold medal for the softball throw competing in down state Illinois…..
Nick competing in Bocce with his volunteer peer partner, Bobby. Incidentally, Bobby (who is Nick’s brother’s best friend), has since gone on to become a Special Education Teacher in the north suburbs of Chicago…..
As my son entered high school, we had to put Special Olympics on the shelf. Having a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism made it difficult for Nick to participate without having a 1:1 aide at all times. This just wasn’t feasible. As a parent, you can only do so much for your child. I made the decision to put speech and occupational therapy first, rather than Special Olympics practice events, after school. However, there were other inclusion opportunities for him in high school, which included Peer Partners and community trips with his respite workers. Nick also participated in a wide range of P.E. programs with peer volunteers to assist and encourage him in high school.
Special Olympics has impacted the lives of athletes and volunteers for 5 decades. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision has grown from a flicker of the first torch flame, to an international movement. “Special Olympics is dedicated to use the power and joy of sports to impact inclusion and respect – one athlete, one volunteer, one doctor, one teacher at a time.” Congratulations to Special Olympics for 50 years of making a difference in the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities!
That’s what is in my noggin this week.
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