The New Columns

A Pingree Speciality

Julia Siegert, Staff Writer

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“The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”

The Special Olympics is not only found on television, but also works with schools, making the Special Olympics more accessible to many. One of the locations the Special Olympics has come to is our very own school. Ms. McCoy informs The New Columns that Pingree got involved with the Special Olympics eight years ago, when Pingree’s fields begun being used for soccer tournaments. The Special Olympics Soccer Tournament had been the largest volunteer at the events every year, and thus begun Pingree’s connection to the Special Olympics.

Pingree students choose to get involved in the games because of the powerful connections they form with their peers and the long lasting memories. An example of this comes from Allison Falvey, an avid Special Olympics volunteer. She shares that she initially got involved through Best Buddies, and was led to do so because of her cousin, who “has severe autism.”

She believes that the Special Olympics is “the perfect opportunity for [her] to get more involved and really have the opportunity to work with kids and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Furthermore, Falvey says that her favorite part of the Special Olympics is “seeing how excited the athletes get when they score a goal.” Additionally, she shared that Pingree volunteers “are really what make the Special Olympics special.”

Fondly, Falvey recalls the commitment of the volunteers, remembering how her fellow students arrived to the fields early to help set up before the event, even though it was “cold and rainy.” Both McCoy and Falvey remember the cold 2016 fall events, and how heartwarming it was to see the positive difference and cheer the volunteers brought to the games.

The Special Olympics stemmed from a day camp in the early 1960s, started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The camp was called Shriver Camp, and was tailored specifically for children with intellectual disabilities. Shriver initially begun the camp because of the lack of places for children with intellectual disabilities to play. This was not only because of the emotional benefits of exercise and friendship, but the alienation many children with intellectual disabilities faced at that time.

Shriver’s camp became an annual event, and was partially funded by the Kennedy Foundation, which was involved with the funding of similar community centers and recreational departments. Unknown to some, Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President Kennedy, was born with intellectual disabilities, and her family actively tried to hide this side of her from the press. They even put her through a lobotomy, a neurological procedure that was supposed to calm her nerves, and make her more presentable to the public. Soon after the procedure was finished, it was apparent that it had failed, and had diminished her intellect to that of a two year old child, no longer able to walk or speak clearly.

Although some believe that Rosemary Kennedy was the inspiration behind camp Shriver, Shriver recognized that “the games should not be focused on one individual.”

Camp Shriver eventually evolved into the Special Olympics, the first international of which were held in 1968 where approximately 1,500 individuals with intellectual disabilities from across the United States and Canada gathered and spent the day participating in physical activities.

After the first Special Olympics took place, Shriver, with the help of an investor (who expressed support after witnessing the first event), gained the courage to get a grant of 25,000 dollars, provided from the JPK Jr. Foundation. Soon after it was announced that the Special Olympics would be held every two years, and after about 30 years worth of games, the Special Olympics went global, heading to Dublin, Ireland in 2003. Currently, the Special Olympics has had over 5.3 million athletes in training and competition and partners in 170 countries.

The Special Olympics not only provides a safe, caring and fun experience for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, but spreads awareness, acceptance, and understanding about intellectual disabilities. An anonymous participant in the games said, “the Special Olympics athletes  [are] leading the way, acting as the Movement’s spokespeople, visionaries, and inspiration, changing attitudes of everyone they encounter and shattering the myths that people with intellectual disabilities are less capable than others of leading fulfilling lives and contributing greatly to their communities.” Pingree is lucky to be part of such a movement.

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