Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor
Volume IV, Issue XXIX
The Athletes Next Door
Special Olympics Opens Opportunities
"Special Olympics strives to awaken the world to the precious abilities and dignity of every human being."
The 'other' weekly news magazine is featuring their "Summer Olympics Special." Far from the glitter of London, another special breed of Olympians are training. They come from 170 different countries. They are kids you know... they're in your church and community. They're the participants in Special Olympics.
"Special Olympics began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the First International Summer Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disability. She saw that individuals with intellectual disability were far more capable in sports and physical activities than experts thought.
In December 1968, Special Olympics was established as a nonprofit charitable organization under the laws of the District of Columbia, USA. The National Association for Retarded Citizens, the Council for Exceptional Children and the American Association on Mental Deficiency pledged their support for this first systemic effort to provide sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disability based on the Olympic tradition and spirit. Since 1968, millions of children and adults with intellectual disability have participated in Special Olympics around the world." -- Special Olympics Website
In 2011, about four million athletes competed in the world event, but Special Olympics is a year-round training program that reaches into many localities.
Lani DeMello was born with intellectual disabilities and a heart defect. Her doctors told her mother Ana, "Take her home. She’s never going to achieve anything." Flash forward 25 years and Lani is a Special Olympics gold medalist and a source of inspiration to her friends and family.
As a young girl, Lani took an interest in dance. She spent several years taking classes at a local ballet studio, yet was unable to keep up with the other dancers. At 13, a friend recommended that she sign up to participate in Special Olympics. There, Lani finally had the support she needed and at her first gymnastics competition, she won almost exclusively gold medals.
From that day on, Lani’s parents made the commitment to drive their daughter 52 miles twice a week to the nearest gymnastics training facility in Georgia. Now Lani has received her coaching certification and has been assisting the Georgia gymnastics program and interned for the Special Olympics International Technical Delegate for Rhythmic Gymnastics at the World Summer Games in Athens.
Private donations make this wonderful program possible. Their Website [click to read] offers more information and the opportunity to help.
The view from Betsy Bell Mountain in Staunton, Virginia.