Celebrating Differences: The Special Olympics to Boston

Born to stand out

This coming April 21st is going to be a very exciting and special day for me and for many others around the country. It is the day of the Boston Marathon.  For many it is the one year anniversary of the day their lives were changed forever.  I know that the lives that were lost that day will be celebrated, as will the determination of those who were injured.  April 21st will also be an exciting day for many people here in Nashville.  It is the day of the Special Olympics for many elementary school children.

My family is fortunate to be a part of one of the best elementary schools here in Nashville, Gower Elementary.  There are a few reasons why Gower is as special as it is.  It is a very diverse school, 21 different languages are spoken in the homes of the families.  In fact 11% of the children are still learning the English language.  Another reason Gower is so amazing is that 20% of the population is made up of students with disabilities.  The most amazing thing about it however, is the way that all of the children pull together to support the children with special and extraordinary needs.  They are encouraging and helpful.  I believe that the things they will learn from understanding what it means to be different, are things they will take with them forever.

I love that the Special Olympics gives children that have faced extraordinary challenges a chance to compete and excel in several different sports and physical activities. My daughter Jayden was asked to be a peer buddy this year at the Special Olympics for a girl in her class, Emma.  Emma has Down Syndrome, and my daughter adores her.  I am so proud that her teacher chose her to attend the Special Olympics in support of Emma.  Emma is going to be doing the softball throw and the run, so exciting! The Special Olympics gives children the opportunity to accomplish goals, no matter what obstacles may stand in their way.  I think many of us, myself included, take for granted the abilities we have to do the physical things we love such as running or competing in sports. When I first became a mom I thought it was tough just feeding them, changing them, and staying up all night with them all night.  I had no idea then that all of that was the easy part.  Building character in kids, teaching them to be respectful, understanding, and compassionate human beings, well that is what being a parent is all about.  Playing sports is definitely a character builder for any child, but watching children with disabilities compete and strive to be better is something we can all learn from.  It is a lesson to never let anything stand in your way.

The Special Olympics was started in the 1950’s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  It started as a camp in her backyard.  The goal has always been to give people with intellectual disabilities physical opportunities in sports and other activities.  This way children with special needs were given the opportunity to focus on what they could do, and not dwell on what they couldn’t. (A lesson we can all learn……focus on the positive.)

Special Olympics Oath

When I found out the date of the Olympics for Emma was the same day as Boston, I was overcome with pride and excitement.  See taking my children to Boston was not an option this year.  It is expensive, they have school, and honestly after the events of last year I did not feel it would be a good year to take them.  Yet there was a part of me that wanted them to understand what it means to work hard for a goal as big as Boston. I wanted them to understand that no matter how big or small a dream is, you should never give up.  I am so happy that one of my children will get to be a part of something equally as special on the very same day, at the very same time.  Talk about motivation?!  As I run the Boston marathon I will know how hard all of the children here in Nashville are working.  I will also know that if they can overcome all of the obstacles they have faced every single day, and if they can still achieve their goals………….well so can I.

I am hoping to have some great pictures to share after the big day………so stay tuned and be inspired!

Emma and Jayden

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