Courage is one of the qualities we admire most in a person, and it’s a trait that’s on full display when individuals joyfully participate in Special Olympics.

On the athletic field, as in life, people with intellectual challenges want to perform at the highest level possible. That is the same type of success we all aim for, and because they make that attempt, we respect them.

Of course, every human being is unique with particular strengths and skills. That is why when a person competes in Special Olympics, they not only have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities they also have the chance to take on new challenges that will enable them to increase their self-confidence as they improve their physical health and overall well-being.

By breaking through personal barriers, they develop self-esteem. This allows them to prove that they are capable of doing even more than was thought, and that is what being a Special Olympics athlete is all about.

They experience the exhilaration of competition as well as the sense of fulfillment that sweeps over them as they make new friends and interact with their peers. They develop a sense of belonging and camaraderie no matter what the athletic results may be.

Of course, the most rewarding aspect of Special Olympics is that each individual is valued for who they are. There are no judgments based on what they can or cannot do. There are no unfair expectations so there is no pressure. There are no restrictions imposed. There is only acceptance.

Special Olympics encourages ideals that can be used in all areas of life.

It teaches the importance of participation and perseverance. It allows individuals to not only test their physical strength and endurance but also to push themselves emotionally and intellectually as they attempt to perform to the best of their abilities. It allows them to feel the satisfaction that results from giving their best effort. When they are awarded their medals, they rightfully feel pride in their accomplishments.

Unfortunately, society still tends to focus solely on the things the athletes struggle with. We are all familiar with the labels and categorizations that are used in an attempt to define our friends and loved ones. We are aware of the unkind designations and descriptions that are attached to flesh and blood human beings. We all know the frustration of being told by someone that a person with a developmental disability cannot do this or that before they have even been allowed to attempt it.

Special Olympics can play an important role in taking the focus off of the negative and placing it on the positive. For both the athlete and their family, it can be an enriching experience that opens up new perspectives on what is possible. New skills are learned and confidence is gained. A competitor can come away from an event and feel good about themselves.

There is so much negativity – so much to be concerned about – so much that is troubling – that it is a pleasure for all of those involved to spend their time and energy in activities where everyone wins.

There are very few areas of life where every person finds complete inclusion. This non-profit stands out as a beacon to those who simply want to be treated as equals. It provides them with a platform to put forth their best effort, and it shows the world that they have the same hopes, dreams, and desires as everyone else.

But by far, the greatest thing about Special Olympics is the fact that it is so much fun!

Athletes get to spend time with their old friends even as they make new ones. They are focused and fully engaged as they attempt to reach their potential. The volunteers who work with them add encouragement and enthusiasm to the events. The sense of achievement each person feels is exciting, as they discover new things about themselves and others.

The whole world benefits from the positive outcomes that are generated by this wonderful organization. Lessons that we all need to learn are on display during the contests. All we have to do is open our hearts and our minds to realize that those who compete for the sheer joy of it are showing us the true purity and beauty of athletic competition.

Special Olympics represent the strength of the human spirit because it’s the perfect combination of courage, commitment, and compassion.

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