You know the quote:
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. ~ Walt Disney
As I sat watching the acts of courage playing out on the field in front of me, I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I had volunteered at the Special Olympics World Games in 1984. The determination, work ethic and grit that these athletes display literally fills your spirit; the words that founder Eunice Shriver pronounced 50 years ago are relevant still: “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Make no mistake. These are serious athletes. As a whole, they not only take their many challenges in stride, they become footnotes or afterthoughts only. They are brave.
|Team SO USA Softball wins the finals.
As with any volunteer service, what you deliver always pales compared to what you take home. I could not wait to attend event- this time not in my backyard, but in the home of marathons and Olympics; Athens, Greece. I needed another dose of inspire and awe. For this time, I had a new perspective, that of a mother raising 2 special needs children. I knew the role that sports had played in my own son’s life, (A Tale of March Madness~ How Basketball Rescued My Autistic Son), and had a profound appreciation for Special Olympics magic. He needed to come with me. He needed to pay it forward with the gifts and skills years of interventions, special education and coaching had yielded. I was excited for him to work as Field Marshall at the softball venue. I couldn’t wait for him to meet the athletes. I wrote about our eager anticipation for the SITS Girls as part of the Proctor & Gamble Thank You Mom Campaign, but I was not prepared for the spectacle to come.
After 10 days of competition, on the final day of the Games, it was announced that Chairman and SEO of Special Olympics Tim Shriver, would be taking part in the first-ever World Games Unity Sports Game in softball. His teammates would be other Shriver family members, gold medal Olympian Sam Perkins, an international group of special athletes, and 2 volunteers. Knowing we had traveled from the States, the volunteer coordinators chose my son to represent them. They could not have known that this boy had more in common with the 7,500 special athletes than he did with the Unity Games mentors or 25,000 Athens volunteers.
Unity Sports Softball Team
To say I was moved by these very special people is a gross understatement. I was transformed by the poetry and beauty, and yes, irony of it all. My son is my hero, and these athletes? Well, there is nothing they can’t do. I went back to the hotel that very same night, and did something I had been dreaming about for 30 years. I registered for my first endurance race. I went to the “we make dreams come true” website, researched the runDisney Charity Groups Program, and booked the very first race I could. The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay had spots open with a women’s non-profit, Team Wooty, and I grabbed it. By contrast to those on the bases, my hurdles were minuscule. I was 53 year old with a partially torn ACL, and had never laced up a pair of running shoes until 6 months previously. But with CAN DO all around me, Walt’s words in my head, and pixie dust in the air, I was inspired to act. After all, runDisney is THE ambassador for Walt Disney’s “If you can dream it, you can do it” attitude.
On Saturday, August 31st, I will finally fulfill a promise made 2 years ago in Athens. I will run the Disneyland 10K with Team Special Olympics Southern California for Special Olympics, my son, and myself. I have already volunteered as a physical therapist for the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles 2015. (You can follow along @LosAngeles2015.) If moved, you can take a look at 10 Simple Ways to Support the Special Olympics. Or you can runDisney with them and buy an entry to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.
The Special Olympics motto:
With me, nothing is impossible.