What the Special Olympics means to me

Posted: January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Isn’t this a sports blog?,” you may ask. Yes, yes is it is, and I want to include everyone. Tomorrow I have an interview with the Special Olympics, an organization that is very dear to my heart. I want to use this blog to tell my story of how the Special Olympics and its athletes have had an affect on my life.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus tells the disciples who all to love. Verses 3-10 really stick out to me:

   3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

These people that most of humanity ignores-people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, homeless, lame, mute- Jesus says the Kingdom belongs to them. So why shouldn’t we love them? I love the Special Olympics because their mission is to include people with intellectual disabilities. There are over 200 million people worldwide with an intellectual disability and the Special Olympics is trying to reach out to every single person through sports.

My personal story begins when I was six months old and Ronnie Sanchez moved in with my grandparents. His mother and stepfather had recently passed away and he moved to Texas because my grandmother was his guardian. Ronnie had Down Syndrome. I obviously don’t remember him moving here, but I don’t remember my life without him. My family raised every grandchild around Ronnie. He looked different to me, but I never treated him differently. Ronnie may have been slow when it came to learning and reading, but he had great one liners and was a fantastic bowler! There are many misconceptions about people with Down Syndrome. Ronnie defied all of them. Doctors told him he wouldn’t live to be a teenager, but he lived to his 60’s. Many employers wouldn’t hire someone like Ronnie, but he held a job for as long as I could remember.

I learned a lot through Ronnie and could never thank him, or my family, enough for sharing his life with me. Ronnie taught me how to love unconditionally and without prejudice. He taught me to be myself and not be afraid of what others think. Through him, I learned to be accepting of everyone and to be compassionate toward people like him. When he passed away four years ago, a piece of my heart died with him. He had me wrapped around his little finger! His impact on my life didn’t stop because he was no longer in my life. Ronnie’s memory lives on in my heart and my desire to work with people with intellectual disabilities.

Many people like Ronnie learn through sports. They learn how to focus, gain courage and social skills and learn to be exceptional in a sport. Ronnie participated in sports leagues through his job, similar to Special Olympics. When I was in junior high and high school, I volunteered with the Special Olympics. Those few days were the highlight of my year! Seeing the smiling faces of the kids and adults when they crossed the finish line melted my heart. And they gave the BEST hugs! In college, I was a member of Best Buddies. My buddy’s name was Paula. She was around the age of Ronnie when he passed away and, because of that, she immediately had my heart. It was like I could continue my relationship with Ronnie through Paula. We hung out once or twice a week. I would pick her up from her apartment and we would do crafts together or just talk. She was definitely a blessing in my otherwise crazy college life. During my junior year, I tried to make a bocce league for people with special needs that would meet and play on the Baylor campus. Student Activities never responded to my request. During my senior year, I had the chance to work with the Baylor Lady Bears. In my head, I had this huge dream of creating a basketball league for people with intellectual disabilities. I thought, through my connections with work, I could have players act as coaches for this league. My plan never got off the ground though.

Now I’m making a complete circle. Tomorrow I interview for an associate position with the Special Olympics. I’m more excited about this than I was for a job with ESPN (obviously, this is where my heart is)! Tomorrow I have the chance to have a job where I combine both of my passions: sports and people with intellectual disabilities. I want to think that Ronnie is looking down on me and smiling. He knows I would be perfect for this; almost like I was born for this job.

To me, the Special Olympics means compassion, inclusion, courage, acceptance and absolute joy. The athletes feel all of these things, and the volunteers feel the same. The volunteers are there to make a difference for the athletes, but the athletes are actually making more of a difference on the volunteers’ life. To be a part of such an amazing organization would make me incredibly happy and fulfilled. Loving on the athletes would be the greatest joy in my life. I really hope and pray I can make these feelings known tomorrow in the interview.

  1. vanessa says:

    awesome! I volunteered with the special olympics during bowling season. It was so much fun to see the kids interacting and enjoying themselves amongst supportive friends and family who love them. It’s a great organization 🙂

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