A high-five and the most electrifying smile lights up as the young Special Olympics athlete hits a 100 yard shot onto the green and watched it land 3 feet from the hole. More smiles, high-fives and excitement as her partner sinks the 3 footer for a par. What an accomplishment for the athlete that earlier had suffered two severe epileptic seizures, yet continued to walk her 9 holes of golf competition.
Two French speaking young male athletes traveled thousands of miles from the Ivory Coast to discover their golf equipment didn’t arrive in time for the competition. With only 2 golf balls and a set of rental clubs they managed to post a low 9 hole score and remain in contention for a medal.
These two examples are only a small representation of the many rewarding experiences I had as one of the volunteers helping at the Special Olympics World Games golf competition July 25-29. The golf competition was held at Griffith Park in LA on the Wilson and Harding courses. My volunteer assignment was to drive the golf cart for the 9 hole alternate shot competition. All of the partners, coaches and athletes are required to walk while those driving the carts act as their caddy, score keepers, forecaddie, helping with minor rulings and providing encouragement to the competitors.
The World Games, which are held at various places every two years, brought over 6500 athletes of all ages and skill levels to LA. 175 countries were represented and over 30,000 volunteers helped make the games a success. Golf was one of 25 athlete competitions in which the Special Olympics Athlete could compete. Special Olympics is the World’s Largest Sports Organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1962 in honor of her sister Rosemary Kennedy. Her goal was to learn what these children and adults could do in sports and activities rather than dwell on what they could not do. Volunteering at the World Games this past summer was an enriching experience in respecting the challenges many of the Special Olympics Athletes face and overcome in order to find joy and success in sport competition that we take for granted on a daily basis.
What a vision Eunice Shriver had… In 1962, 90 athletes competed and at the LA games in 2015 there was over 6500 competitors. Eunice K Shriver would always ask… What did you do today to put yourself in a better position to serve and whom did you help?
The Special Olympic code speaks for itself:
Let me win, but it I cannot win
Let me be brave in the attempt.