Let’s take a second and think back to elementary school, middle school or even high school. There was always the kid that would be unfairly treated or in certain cases, made fun of because him/her was different from everyone else. There was no rhyme or reason for it, we’re all still people. The kids who had a given disability or disorder, whatever it may be often times couldn’t participate in sports like others could. Occasionally you would see someone against all odds, participating in a varsity sport. My high school had a disabled girl who was on the varsity cheerleading team, cheered at the basketball and football games and took part in competition just like everyone else. Those are the stories that warm everyone’s heart. With that being said, it’s not everyday that you’re going to see someone be able to compete at a varsity level in a given sport, it’s just not always feasible.
There once was a time where those who suffered from a disorder or had a certain disability were out of luck when it came to sports. That was until the Special Olympics have come into play and created opportunities for everyone. Since the first games were held in 1968, the Special Olympics have grown to include 4.2 million athletes in over 150 different countries. The athletes, all of whom have some sort of disability take part in the same sports that we have come to know and love in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. We all enjoy channeling those feelings of nationalism every four years while rooting on our fellow countrymen and women.
Similar to how the Olympics are conducted, the Special Olympics World Games are held every two years, alternating between the winter and summer games. Those aren’t all it is though, the Special Olympics are held almost daily on a local basis and also feature various regional and national competitions. Take a second to think about it, there are those with disabilities who are out there competing in the sport or event they love each and every day. That alone takes a level of effort and dedication that some may not be able to truly comprehend what these athletes have to deal with a daily basis. It gives us a chance to sit back and truly appreciate everything we have in life, don’t take even the simplest things for granted.
Perhaps the mission statement posted on the Special Olympics website says it best as to how they can truly provide opportunities for anyone and everyone, both children and adults who are disabled in some way, shape or form. “The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community” (specialolympics.org). That quote really speaks to just how far the Special Olympics can go in changing the lives of various individuals. It provides them with a chance to compete in the sport they love, something that many of them may have once never thought possible.
Similar to what my partner, Erika Schmid posted earlier this week regarding the Paralympics, I am guilty as charged when it comes to thinking of what the Special Olympics are. Sure, I had heard the term but never really took the time to understand just what they can do for those with disabilities. I also didn’t realize that some form of the Special Olympics is held on a daily basis while we go through the constant movement of daily life. It’s well worth taking a few minutes to appreciate what these athletes are doing, fighting against all odds and overcoming various obstacles to compete in an Olympic sport.