"When you attend a Special Olympics Games, you begin to realize there is much more at work than simply athletic competition. On one hand, it is the story of years of tragedy transformed into pure joy, driven by the beauty of sheer effort. But at the same time, it is a profound statement of inclusion - that everybody matters, everybody counts, every life has value and every person has worth." -Nelson Mandela
For the fourth year in a row, I have had the AMAZING opportunity to participate in the state summer games for Special Olympics. This past weekend I was an Olympian as I raced my heart out in both the 200 meter and 400 meter track and field event. Before I get into the nitty gritty of this amazingly spectacular weekend (yes, I use the word amazing quite a bit), I want to tell you all how I got here in the first place.
It all started during my freshman year of high school when I was (sadly) denied a place on the track team for my high school because of a lack of "help" for my special "needs" and requirements but, thats a whole other story. During an IEP meeting, a staff member from my school had suggested that the high school track team was not the place for me but, instead I should consider Special Olympics. As we walked out of the meeting my mother's eyes filled with tears at the thought of me joining this team. She remembers thinking about how wrong this person was and that the individuals in Special Olympics were much more severe than her little baby. We were so wrong. Joining Special Olympics was and still is, hands down, one of the greatest decisions of my life. The positivity, the friendships, the teamwork, the unity, the love, are just a few reasons why I call my spot on this team home and why my teammates are like family. Truly, we are like a oversized family; we all have our little quirks but thats what makes us fit together so perfectly. Like, close your eyes and imagine being surrounded by those who GENUINELY wanted to see you succeed, encouraged you, cheered you on, picked you up when you were down, supported you and loved you unconditionally.. thats what its like to be apart of this team and this organization.
This past weekend was, to no surprise, another amazing experience. From the opening ceremonies to dancing with old friends and making some (pretty awesome) new ones, every moment was entirely heart filled. Although not every single one of us can receive the gold medal in every event, we know that we are all winners. We are winners of love, of friendships, and of support. We won acceptance as athletes and individuals and we won the love of the millions of people who support us and such an amazing organization that stands behind us. I am incredibly proud of my fourth place ribbon and bronze medal I went home with this past weekend but, I am even more thankful for the teacher who turned me down because, without that door closing, this one may have never opened. I am PROUD to be a SPECIAL OLYMPIAN.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" - Special Olympics athlete oath.
Until next time,