Special Olympics gives unlikely athelets a chance to win gold medals!
Instead of being left out, picked on or bullied, the Special Olympic athletes are given an opportunity to develop their self esteem and self respect, increase belief in themselves and their abilities and to feel part of a team. Almost all kids admire successful Olympic athletes and many may dream that one day they could win a gold medal. But the truth is that very few athletes actually make it to the Olympics or to the championship rounds, so for most kids getting to wear that gold medal around their neck remains a dream…
…And then there is Special Olympics, a wonderful organization where athletes with intellectual disabilities celebrate and are celebrated for their accomplishments and it gives them the opportunity to really experience and feel the thrill of being a winner at the Olympics. I don’t know why but for some reason we didn’t start bringing Eytan, who has autism, to Special Olympics until he was about 16. I hope other families don’t miss out on years of participating, like we did, because it is not only a special event for your special needs child, but it will have an impact on your whole family.
The first state games that I attended touched my heart deeply. I was so moved by the warmth, encouragement, acceptance and pride that permeated the campus. Athletes were proud of themselves and equally as proud of each other. Coaches were encouraging their athletes and showing tremendous patience and acceptance of their abilities, whatever they were. Parents and siblings were celebrating their family members and bonding with other families in an environment where everyone felt they totally fit in. Everyone was a winner! It was beautiful. I was smiling so much the whole time that my cheeks were hurting – you know that feeling?
Eytan’s younger sister who had dealt with the common struggle siblings often have of feeling embarrassed that their sibling has a disability, completely turned around because of Special Olympics. It was there that she realized she was not alone and developed friendships with other siblings. It was there that she began to appreciate what her brother could do instead of focusing on what he couldn’t do. It was there at Special Olympics that she found how much she loved to contribute to helping these special people. She graduated high school with more volunteer hours under her belt than probably any student had ever had – and she was recognized and honored for that contribution. She went on to study Special Education in college and plans to work with the special needs population, all because of the positive experiences she had at Special Olympics.
Many of the volunteers at Special Olympics are family members – my husband has become one of the coordinators for our town’s chapter. But many volunteers do not have a child or sibling with special needs and for some other reason they get involved and like most, once they start they never want to leave. There aren’t too many places one can be where people are so loving, supportive, positive and able to enjoy the moment with such purity. We all can learn from these special athletes. Many of our experiences at Special Olympics are part of the motivation behind the messages we’ve encorporated into EytanArt – Designs About Difference – “Different is beautiful!” ” We’re not that different” and “Giving changes everything” to name a few!
Our family and EytanArt make donations to support Special Olympics in our town. We hope you’ll consider volunteering and/or making donations to this organization or the Special Olympics branch near you.
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Susan Nisinzweig Susan@EytanArt.com 203 637-3144