This week, our oldest son will be taking part in the Equestrian events for Special Olympics, Georgia. This is his second year participating in this program and I wish I had realized that he could be a part of it years earlier than I did. It is amazing how well he has responded to the horses and how well that the horses have responded to him. He has gained so much from the experience, from better balance and posture, to a better outlook on life and more confidence. I would totally recomend Special Olympics to anyone who may have a child who qualifies or who might want to participate in an amazing event as a volunteer! I have watched volunteers blossom and benefit as they work with the riders over the past couple of years, also.
In writing this article, I checked out the Special Olympics website. In their About Us section, it gives a really good explanation of what Special Olympics is all about: Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere. We are the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities: with 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries — and millions more volunteers and supporters. We are also a global social movement.
I am honored to be a part of this social movement! From personal experience, I can truly report that this is a movement that not only changes lives, but celebrates life in its infinite and beautiful diversity. Every athlete is loved. Every athlete is valuable. Every athlete is celebrated! How amazing that is for a population that is largely overlooked (at best) and reviled (at worst). These kids (I think of them as kids, but there is not an age limit in the Special Olympics, with some athletes training at our Equestrian Center (Calvin Center, Hampton, GA) being in their 40s) work hard and learn so much in preparation for various events. Currently, 32 Olympic style sports are included. I only have personal experience with the equestrian events, but other parents whose children participate in multiple sports report similar positive effects in the athletes in other events as well.
Parents may have to look around to find a Special Olympics sports group to practice with. The county we live in has absolutely no Special Olympics groups here. That is pretty telling, because if there were support from our local businesses and government for these kids, we would be easily able to find athletes! Fortunately, a friend through our Boy Scout Troop introduced us to the Special Olympics training at the Calvin Center in the next county over. Fortunately, the county north of us has 17 events that athletes can compete in and they have NO problems including those of us who don’t have access in our counties.
And all of this positive energy and caring comes through a rich history that started with Eunice Kennedy Shriver noticing that children with disabilities didn’t have places to play. For a great look at the history of how one woman worked to change the perceptions of the day and start Special Olympics, read the article here. I couldn’t do it justice by paraphrasing it.
I never knew I would have a child who would be able to take advantage of this amazing organization. I couldn’t have prepared for it in advance. But, I know that my son, and indeed, my whole family, has received love and support from a group of volunteers who are changing the world each and every day! Maybe not in the way that some view changing the world, but no matter what moods we are in when we arrive for my kiddo’s lessons, he (and I) always leave smiling. In a world of hatred and anger, this is an amazing and profound thing. I refuse to overlook the beauty in that time on horseback and the kind and supportive words we both receive due to this organization. Special Olympics is one of very few organizations that I feel very good about. I have seen first hand how they operate and how they benefit their athletes. They aren’t blowing wads of money on television ads and trying to blow up their own corporate salaries. They are working to make the world a better place, one athlete at a time. I can support that.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” I think that Mrs. Shriver has also changed the world, possibly more than she ever thought possible, and I, for one, am incredibly grateful.
Do you support Special Olympics?
Till next time,