It's the time of year when all the schools across the county gather together to take part in Special Olympics! While this is a very exciting and special day for us, I wanted to give you a little history lesson in how all it came to be. You may be quite surprised to learn that a famous family was behind the whole idea...
In June of 1962 - many moons before your time, a woman named Eunice Kennedy Shriver (does that name sound familiar? Probably not, but she was President John F. Kennedy's sister.) Anyway, she started a day camp called "Camp Shriver" for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Potomac, Maryland. She was a very caring woman who loved children of all types, and developed a specific concern for children with intellectual disabilities. She realized that at the time, many children of various special needs didn't have anywhere to play. Talk about sad times! She strongly believed that these kids deserved a place to play and benefit from all the benefits of sport and physical activity. She was a wonderful woman with a big heart in my book!
Her little Camp Shriver was so successful that it eventually became an annual event, and the Kennedy Foundation (which she was the director of ) gave grants to universities, recreation departments, and community centers to hold similar camps. Hence our participation today!
Not many people know this, but President Kennedy and Eunice had many siblings (there were 9 in all! Sounds like daddy's family!) one of which was their older sister Rosemary. Rosemary was born with intellectual disabilities. The times were very different then my dear. It is heartbreaking to read her story, but in the end, she had a very tragic and sad life, not due to her disabilities directly, but primarily due to the failed treatments of the day that had a very negative effect on poor Rosemary. It is believed that this inspired Eunice to create Camp Shriver, which eventually became our modern day Special Olympics. Regardless of her inspiration, Eunice told The New York Times in 1995 that "The games should not focus on one individual" but rather all those in need.
Today, the Special Olympic competitions are open to athletes with a variety of special needs aged 8 and up all over the US. For younger people ages 2–7, Special Olympics has a Young Athletes Program (that's what you participate in Addie). The Young Athletes Program is an inclusive sports and play program with a focus on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. These games help with developing motor skills and hand eye coordination. Parents have said that they've seen better social skills emerge after participation in these events! There was even a study by the Center for Social Development and Education (University of Massachusetts, Boston) that found that these activities also had a positive influence on helping children with intellectual disabilities learn routine and new approaches to learning, along with how to follow rules and direction. How cool is that!?
So now knowing how the Special Olympics became what it is today, this week we tried our skills out in the 2017 Wake County Special Olympics! Boooo Yeahhhh! Lets go Addie!!!!!
Having been an expert at attending this event in the Spring for many, many years (ok, so I've only been to the Special Olympics for 3 years ;)...), I knew we needed to arrive extra early to claim the perfect viewing spot! Guess what baby girl, I was there so early that I even startled a few people in the volunteer meeting as I rolled on up with my cooler and laid out our blanket. Hey, never the less we scored a perfect grassy spot right underneath a tree next to our event location - check!
This being the first year that our school participated, we were dressed to impress with our "owl"some Star Wars themed shirts and banner - May the 4th be with you too Addie!! A lot of thought, time and love went into making everything perfect for the day, and when it was our time to shine, the Oakview Owls stood very proud and looked great! Go team go!
Opening ceremonies went amazingly well. Everyone paraded around the track with their banners, sang the national anthem, repeated the Special Olympic oath, and your very own Oakview Owl friend Jaiden was given the honor of carrying in the Olympic torch to start the day! Whoop whoop! Not gonna lie, mommy was a little nervous with that giant flame nearby! He was a rockstar though!
This was going to be a great day!
You were scheduled to participate in 4 events - target throwing, agility sequencing, jumping coordination, and last but not least - a Menzo favorite, running. Our start time was a bit later than I would've desired, but you and your classmate's did great! Sitting and waiting for almost 2 hours could've taken a turn for the worse, but luckily we had the perfect crew of parents, teachers and friends, fully equipped with snacks, water and toys to keep things running smoothly!
Just as I was feeling like things were going little too well, and you kids would lose it at any minute, they finally called our group!
Alright, here we go Addie!
Our first event was agility sequencing. This was a straight up super fail before it even started. Not for the reasons you may think. This event involved jumping, skipping and galloping to certain spots on a tennis court. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! You see, while waiting for your turn, you notice a tennis ball on the opposite side of the fence. Uh oh. This caused a complete focus change. You went straight for it - obviously to accept your personal mandate to save that poor lonely ball! Your tiny hand squeezed through the fence and grabbed the ball, but success was quickly halted when the ball wouldn't fit when trying to pull it back through. You were frustrated and very mad. So your first event ended up being more of a demonstration of your audible dissatisfaction with your resent failed rescue mission than anything else.
Ok so that didn't go well, but next up was target throwing! You love to throw! I could smell the success in this one!
Clearly my NC allergies must've gotten to me and my sense of smell was a little off. You were still quite agitated from the previous event, and weren't having it with this one either. All of a sudden, you decided pink and yellow balls were not the color you wanted to use in showing your skills. Shouting repeatedly "blue balls" at the poor volunteer (thank goodness she found humor in it...), I knew we didn't have the next Justin Verlander on our hands. Appeasing all of your cheering bystanders you walked straight up to the target and just stuck them on. I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that would be considered cheating Addie.
Ok so we are 0-2. Moving on.
Event #3! This one had shapes that you had to follow and jump on! Yes! Shapes! Now you REALLY love shapes! Even waiting for your turn, you looked at me and said "twinkle, twinkle" because you noticed the star shapes in the path! Ok you're up, let's do this baby! We quickly realized that you had no interest in stepping foot on the shapes, you much preferred pick them up to gather into like piles. Alright, so that event ended up being Miss Annie and I jumping the path sans your participation, other than you yelling once again your displeasure for the rules of the event.
Ok so we are 0-3. Next up running! Now we Menzo's love to run. Your big sister is a straight up gazelle, and Gabe can go the distance too. This one was made for you love.
We were almost done, so it was time to pull it together - and that you did! We finally found your event! You all gathered on the starting line and "on your mark, get set, GO!" Away you went. Back and forth about 15 times and guess what? You enjoyed every second of this one! Yay! You were finally happy! Attention everyone...We may have the next Carl Lewis here! Whoohoo, we ended on a good note! That's my girl!
So Addie, we were blessed to have yet another opportunity to participate in our local Special Olympics and all in all you did great sweet girl!
Keep working hard, we'll be back to show our skills again next year! Go Owls!