The meaning behind Special Olympics
Eunice Kennedy Shiver had a vision. It was that people of all intellectual abilities can be given the same opportunities to compete as their typical peers. She could no longer accept that fact that people with intellectual disabilities could not play freely and without judgment. She began a summer camp in her very own back yard. For young people with intellectual disabilities this was a wonderful opportunity, but she did not stop there. She worked tirelessly from 1946 through 1968, lobbying for these children and young adults. It was in December of 1968 when Sen. Edward Kennedy finally announced the formation of Special Olympics.
I began to volunteer for Special Olympics over 20 years ago, when I was in college and for more than a decade I have been a part of an amazing team called the South County Stingray’s. Our athletes perform in swim and track and field during the Summer games. However, they participate in a year-round athletic program that includes, bowling, skiing, and walking club. They are living the dream that Eunice Kennedy Shriver always wanted for them. I am honored to be a part of their enormous spirit and love for the games.
For me however; it is not just about the games that keeps me coming back season after season. It is the fact that these athletes are not just performing the day of the event, it is how they persevere and overcome adversity everyday in their own lives as well.
In a speech, Eunice Kennedy Shriver compared the spirit and determination of a Special Olympian to that of Roman Gladiators hundreds of years ago. Upon entering the games it is said, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, then let me be brave in the attempt.”
Stacie A. Zamperini M.Ed.