Why we need the Special Olympics

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

Why we need the Special Olympics

Hearing the Special Olympics athlete oath, resonating over a crowd from a loudspeaker, is an incredibly moving experience. I feel a lump form in my throat every time I listen to an athlete recite the powerful words at an event.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”

It is truly a thing of beauty.

This year was the2nd year that my daughter and I attended our local Special Olympic games with her school. As I stood there on a bright sunny morning, in awe of the participants, families, and caregivers around me, I realized why we NEED these community events.

Excitement and inspiration filled the air. In her wheelchair and with her communication device, my girl was not an anomaly there. She was surrounded by kindred spirits, and she was enveloped by love. New friends excitedly introduced themselves to us, and we ran into precious old friends too. Volunteers checked on us, making us feel welcomed.

We belonged there. Everyone belonged there.

My daughter had a blast, laughing with the breeze in her hair, as I pushed her in a short distance race. She was given her very own blue ribbon, and it really was a huge victory for her.

Typically, the sun and wind send her into anxious sensory overload. Not on this day. It was a monumental win as she was calm and free, having the time of her life.

As we sat on the sidelines, clapping and cheering in unison with others for EVERY athlete, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. As I soaked in the enthusiasm and the determination that was all around us, I realized that this is what our world should look like. It was perfection.

This groundbreaking vision of inclusion and opportunity was brought to life in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Having a sister with intellectual disabilities and witnessing the injustices in society’s treatment of disabled individuals in the 1960’s, she started a movement to completely flip the script.

She helped the world see their worth.

She aided society in recognizing their talents. The Special Olympics was created to give those, like my daughter, a chance to play, compete and to be included. It commenced to place emphasis on all unique ABILITIES.

We desperately need more events like the Special Olympics, where no one is forced to sit on the sidelines and observe; a place where everyone can take part. Everyone has a chance. It’s paramount that individuals with disabilities are given every opportunity to SHINE and to be proud of themselves.

If you’ve never attended a Special Olympics event, I encourage you to go. You’ll witness strength and perseverance like you’ve never imagined. Your heart will be forever changed.


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