After attending a Special Olympics fundraiser at a friend's house a couple of months ago, we were invited to attend the summer games and be part of the "Be a Fan" tour. So, Saturday morning, Eric, the kids and I headed up to Harvard University for the Special Olympics Massachusetts Summer Games. It was an awesome experience.
We were with about 15 other people on the the tour. I had assumed the other "fans" would also be families of children with special needs, but they weren't. They were all people who just want to be a part of this very special organization. Maybe some had seen an ad like this one:
Or maybe they had a personal connection. One of the men on the tour said he was there because he wanted to encourage his kids (ages, 10, 10 and 13) to volunteer and thought it would be a great thing to do as a family. He told me he chose Special Olympics because he had a friend 20 some years ago with a sister with Down syndrome. He said the friend and his sister had an incredibly close relationship and had both left a lasting impression on him.
During the tour, we were able to watch athletes participate in swimming, gymnastics, track and field, tennis and volleyball. There were glowing smiles, enthusiastic thumbs up and high fives everywhere. We were also given a bit of history about the Special Olympics and also specifics about Special Olympics Massachusetts. There were 2,129 athletes participating in Saturday's games. I didn't hear the exact number of volunteers, but was impressed that a single Boston-based company had sent 400 volunteers. Wow!
For those of you interested, there was a great article in Sports Illustrated a few months ago that told the history of the Special Olympics, which was started by Eunice Shriver in 1968. What an amazing organization she had the vision to create. I can barely begin to fully comprehend the positive impact that the Special Olympics has had on millions of lives...not only of those that compete in the games, but also spectators and volunteers. I felt honored to be able to spend a day cheering for the Special Olympics athletes and look forward to many more such days...especially when I can be there cheering for Brennan.
And just for fun, here's my favorite commercial from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing: