Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On Self-Esteem

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

The December 8, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine, a special double issue, featured Michael Phelps as this year's Sportsman of the Year. The issue also featured SI's first-ever Legacy Award given to Eunice Shriver, founder of Special Olympics. Unless you were living on Mars this past summer, you surely have heard of Michael Phelps. His astounding performance in the Summer Olympics was something for the ages. And, it certainly helps that he is not only a brilliant swimmer but an all-around, class act human being to boot! Michael even made time to coach Special Olympics swimmers in a clinic in 2007!

But while I would love to write about Michael Phelps, this piece is about Eunice Shriver. To say she is a visionary is to suggest that Mother Teresa found time to do good deeds every once in awhile. Sports Illustrated got it right by naming Michael Phelps as the Sportsman of the Year, but they hit the ball over the fence in naming Eunice Shriver the recipient of their first Legacy Award. She not only founded Special Olympics four decades ago, but she started a movement that literally changed the world. From its humble beginnings in Chicago 40 years ago, with a crowd of less than one hundred people and 1,000 athletes, Special Olympics International's (SOI) presence today in over 180 countries with 2.5 million athletes, Mrs. Shriver has given people with intellectual disabilities purpose and meaning. She has instilled in them a sense of value and worth as human beings. All one has to do is read the story of Loretta Claiborne. Now 55, Loretta Claiborne was born with intellectual disabilities. But she had a gift for running, and Special Olympics gave her a forum for demonstrating that gift. She overcame abuse, ignorance, and rejection, and over the last 25 years as a Special Olympics athlete and public representative, Claiborne has become an accomplished motivational speaker. She owns her own home, pays her bills, has testified before the United States Senate, has been the subject of a made-for-TV, Disney movie, has run 26 marathons, earned a fourth degree black belt, and has emerged as the person Tim Shriver, current Chair of Special Olympics International, calls "the very embodiment of our movement." Someone gave Ms. Claiborne a chance. Someone believed in her.

Someone was able to look beyond her intellectual disabilities and see a living, breathing human being capable of understanding - a person with feelings and sensitivities. If you want firsthand validation of this phenomenon, all you need to do is become a hugger at a Special Olympics event--or just sit in the stands and watch. Take some time to see the wonder of what has continued to grow every year for 40 years thanks to the passion and persistence of Eunice Shriver.

Not surprisingly, this year, EP recognized Special Olympics as one of the Seven Wonders of the World of Disabilities.

Throughout its 38-year history, EP has shared the same passion and persistence demonstrated by Special Olympics. EP has espoused that same faith in the human spirit and the same desire to offer those with disabilities and their families hope and help. Not only on the fields of friendly strife, but also in communities across the nation, in organizations and professional societies and in corporate boardrooms, focusing attention on the most underserved population of Americans, people with disabilities. …

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