I recently had the privilege of attending the Special Olympics, which took place at our local public high school. I was invited by one of my closest friends who coordinates the program for a local county.
Upon arriving, I met my friend and members of her team. Some team members were shy, some were serious — getting 'in the zone' for the upcoming competition, and some were very friendly and relaxed — telling jokes that made me laugh out loud. I especially enjoyed meeting one boy, who shyly turned away from me the first time I spoke to him. Slowly warming up, he filled me in on the many sports he loves including weight lifting, softball, flag football and bowling, and his recent trip to Cardinals Spring training with several friends he'd made through Special Olympics. He was jazzed!
And then there was the team's support network, which included parents, siblings, coaches and an amazing assortment of law enforcement personnel who generously support Special Olympics through fundraising and contributing their personal time.
The day began with the athletes' declaration of their Special Olympics oath: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I thought, that oath said it all and would be good oath for most of us, most of the time. I contemplated what my oath might be and came up with "let me be the best version of me that I can be, but if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt.” An oath like that would surely keep me stretching for my best rather than shrinking back into my comfort zone!
Next came the Flame of Hope and the names were announced for the officers and Special Olympics athletes who were participating in the Torch Run. Pairs held the torch and ran together around the track in a relay. I learned that this is part of a much larger initiative involving over 85,000 police officers. These officers raised over $30 million last year alone for Special Olympics programs through the Law Enforcement Torch Run®. While the fundraising is fantastic, perhaps more importantly, the officers provide the athletes with friendship and encouragement.
After the opening ceremony, we walked with our athletes to their power weight lifting event. Several contenders lifted double their own body weight — up to 300 pound bench press and dead weight lift! As they watched their competitors perform they cheered wildly, encouraging each other to give their very best.
The event ended with the medal presentations, as the athletes stood on bronze, silver or gold platforms, while uniformed officers placed medals around their necks and shook their hands. Many of the athletes 'struck a pose,’ showing off their muscles and beautiful spirits while on center stage.
How inspiring to be amongst this amazing group of champions and their supporters. Their determination, hope, senses of humor, and winning spirits were highly contagious. I'm so glad to have caught it.