Fifty years of Special Olympics – Wow! I remember a bowling alley in Gibsons in the nineties where I got my first taste.
Back then, bowling was the only sport we had. Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers and parents, after bowling was over, there were lots more sports to play. Years later, in 2008, I again joined our esteemed ranks at the age of twenty-six. By that time there was softball, track and field, golf, swimming and other sports. But we’ll get to that later. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Fifty years ago, a woman named Eunice Kennedy Shriver had a sister named Rosemary who had an intellectual disability. Eunice sought inclusion for all those with an I.D. She founded the Special Olympics as a tribute to that ideal and her love for her sibling.
Meanwhile in the north end of the world, Dr. Frank Hayden from the University of Toronto was working on research that undid the claim that people with intellectual disabilities could not compete in sports. On July 20, 1968, the first Special O world games were held on Soldier Field in Chicago. A year later, Dr. Frank started a chapter in Canada.
Present day, Sunshine Coast: there are sixty plus athletes, forty-five volunteers, and eleven sports in Special Olympics Sunshine Coast. We have had athletes attend competitions in the Lower Mainland, Kamloops, and as far away as Greece.
I myself have been to two Provincial Games, once in 2013 and again in 2017. I am a swimmer and track and field athlete, and I also play bocce. I am a proud Special Olympian and that’s something I will be for as long as I breathe.
So this is a call to ALL chapters, regions, and locals in the Special O universe and those wishing to know more. Volunteer, become an athlete, and you’ll find a world that will not only open your eyes but open your heart. Together world wide let’s celebrate the oath we have lived for fifty years…
Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.