The Special Olympics were founded on July 20, 1968, by Eunice Kennedy Shiver (sister of John F. Kennedy). Eunice felt that cognitively disabled children were not treated fairly. She observed that many did not have a place to play in the community. She set out to start a summer sports camp for children with cognitive disabilities. With help from the White House and many others, the summer sports camp evolved into the Special Olympics, a global sensation with 170 participating countries!
Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, hosted the first public Special Olympic games. Eunice literally jumped right into the first event, aquatics. This made her not only the founder of Special Olympics, but also the first volunteer!
The Special Olympics slogan clearly states their mission, “Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Today, Special Olympics is for athletes ages 8 and up with cognitive/intellectual disabilities.
Today the Special Olympics have over four million athletes competing worldwide. To give you an idea of how much the ever-growing popularity of Special Olympics, they have enough athletes to fill over half of New York City. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. For further information on how to donate or get involved, click here.
I asked my friends, Judy and Taylor, to write about their experience as a Special Olympics volunteer and athlete. Taylor is also a participant of Polar Plunge, a fundraising event for Special Olympics.
Here is their story:
My name is Judy and my daughter, Taylor, has been involved with Special Olympics for five years. She currently participates on the bowling and track team. In the past, she participated on the swim and bocce ball team.
The reason Taylor enjoys Special Olympics is because she loves being a team player. She loves to help her fellow athletes who do not have the physical abilities she has. She recognizes there are others not as fortunate as she is in her ability to do the things she enjoys.
Taylor also has received much pleasure from being able to travel and participate in tournaments all over Wisconsin: Eau Claire for bowling, Appleton for bocce ball, Oshkosh for swimming, and Merrill and Stevens Point for track and field. Taylor reports that the best part of being a Special Olympics athlete is meeting new friends. She enjoys being able to share stories of life, laughter and friendly competition.
Taylor is not only a Special Olympics athlete, she also raises money for this important organization. Taylor has had so much fun being part of the Polar Plunge event, this will be her second year jumping into the ice-cold water! She will be “freezing for a reason”! To date, Taylor has raised over 1500.00 for the Special Olympics! Taylor took the Polar Plunge again today at Sunnyvale Park in Wausau! It is not too late to support her efforts click here. Donations can be made in Taylor’s honor throughout the year!
As for myself, I have been a certified Special Olympics card carrying volunteer for about 4 years. I am an Administrative Assistant in an Adult Family Home where 6 of our 8 residents are active Special Olympic athletes. What I get from being part of Special Olympics is so very simple. It is the smiles, the high fives, and the look of complete joy on the faces of the athletes as they accomplish their goal of doing the best they can!! Myself, my husband, Mike, and my fellow staff members at Everest Housing LLC. will always show our support for these amazing athletes as they continue to reach for the goals they can achieve. We will continue to let our smiles show, our tears flow and our voices be heard as they smile, wave, dance and be proud of themselves for what they have achieved, the medals they have won, and the new friends they have made as they continue to show family and friends what Special Olympics really stands for!
Thank you Judy and Taylor for allowing me to share your story! Thank you Taylor for your dedication to such an important organization!
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!
Photo Credit: Judy Swanson-Shest and Sandi Kelch
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