Special Olympics: Be Your Child’s Strongest Advocate

By Jul 7, 2011July 10th, 201420 Comments

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I had the honor of traveling to Athens, Greece for front row seats at the Special Olympics. My job? To support, to listen, to learn, and to document my experience.

I supported…

An amazing exhibition of talent and love. Stands were filled with families of athletes and although we were cheering for the United States…there was an undeniable feeling of unity. Athletes waited for one another to cross the finish line and the last one crossing always got a bigger applause than the first one.

Even though many of us were from different countries and didn’t speak a unified language, you could tell there was a shared understanding and bond. Everyonewanted the athletes to experience success, acceptance, and recognition for their hard work.

I listened…

To countless moms share their experiences. We spent hours interviewing and chatting with mothers of the Special Olympic athletes about their experiences. Each one unique. Each story of struggle, acceptance, and perseverance was peppered with different challenges and personal journeys. But one piece of advice was repeated over and over again from each of the moms we spoke with.

The message was clear, from one mom to another…fight for your child.

We are our kids strongest advocates and they need us to speak up on their behalf. It’s our job to fight for the life we know they deserve and to teach people to see what amazing things we’re all capable of.

I learned…

a lot.

I learned that  I had many preconceived notions about what to expect at the Special Olympics.

I learned that regardless of the spectrum of a child’s capabilities, as mothers, our job is to encourage them to speak up for themselves and to speak for them when they won’t be heard.

I learned that the word “disability” is over used and unfair. I can’t imagine living a life where I’m first judged solely based on what it is perceived I cannot do as opposed to seeing who I am and all that I am capable of.

I learned that mothers of kids with special needs work tirelessly and often thanklessly.

I documented…

After meeting and interviewing moms from all over the country, I found that most of them don’t feel they need to be thanked.

As Molly Hincka’s mom so eloquently put it, “every family has their thing. Some families cope with divorce, some families lack love or deal with death…and some families are meant to spend some extra time guiding a loved along their journey.”

We all have elements that make our families unique and as mothers we fill the need, wherever it may be, without question. Because we love our families.

The wise perspective and supportive community I witnessed and felt while visiting Athens for the Special Olympics cannot be accurately documented. I was hugged by people who didn’t know me because just by being there, through supporting and cheering, I was family.

I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to work so closely with Procter & Gamble on this Thank You, Mom campaign. Please consider showing your support for P&G’s efforts and for all special needs athletes and their parents by leaving a comment on the P&G Thank You, Mom Facebook page. For every comment left a dollar (up to $250,000) will be raised to support Special Olympics.


  • Hannah says:

    Your photos are wonderful. I hope you’ll consider send some to my website for cute or funny photos, http://www.FunnyPhotosContest.com. NO entry fee

  • DIStherapy says:

    We just got back from volunteering in Greece- I wish I could have met you!! I posted my “Top 10 Highlights and Lessons from the Special Olympics World games” at http://www.distherapy.com/2011/07/top-10-highlights-and-lessons-from.html
    My SITS post describes our journey…
    Thank you SITS and P & G!!!!

  • TheFoodnatic says:

    I come from a family that has a great uncle Larry with Down’s Syndrome…still living in MN at nearly 60 years old. I’ve always been told that for DS children the most vital thing to their longevity and survival is LOVE. My cousins and I have always had a place in our hearts for “special needs” folks. It is hard for me to call them that though, in a lot of ways they have SO many things figured out long before everyone else does. Life is simple, everything is wonderful and as long as the sun is shining, it is a wonderful day. Thank you so much for sharing this and going to be a part of that event. It means so much to know that this is still a cause that is the forefront of people’s minds and on our hearts. Thank you a million times over! =)

  • What a nice post. And what a great experience for you to learn. I appreciate your words and bringing the trip to life for your readers!

  • LOVE this post!!! I consider myself so blessed and lucky to have had a special cousin. Thought you’d like to see/promote another great event so am attaching the link: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Foriginsevents.com%2F2011originsinternational%2Ftournament.html%23tangsoodo&h=qAQAocH6v

    Thank you so much for keeping these great kids (young and old) in the spotlight, Kat!!!

  • Theresa says:

    What an amazing experience! It must have been so inspiring to be with all those fantastic kids and parents.

  • Alison says:

    Great post! My five-year-old son plays the Paralympic sport sled hockey, basically ice hockey on a sled instead of skates. On the ice he’s no longer “the kid with the canes” or “the kid with CP,” he’s Jack, a hockey player with great potential. It’s awesome to think of the opportunities for special needs kids considering not so long ago we’d hide them away in asylums. It’s even more incredible to think that they still do that in many countries, including the country from which we adopted Jack. Really cool to see a special life unfold…

  • Oh, Kat. Your article brought tears to my eyes. I taught dance for years – mainly to teenagers and adults. But for a couple of years I taught developmentally delayed kids, ages 8-10 (4-6 y.o. developmentally). Their school teachers thought I was nuts (okay, I was) with what I wanted to teach them. But they learned to dance, and loved it! We performed at numerous Special Olympics events and the kids never disappointed.

    Was truly the highlight of my dance career. Your post brought all those great memories back. Thank you!

  • Emma says:

    What an amazing post. I’m so pleased that you gained so much from it and met such awesome people x

  • Kathryn says:

    From a Mom of a Special Needs child, thank you for sharing. It made me cry with pride to see the joy of the athletes. My son’s challenges seem small compared to others but you are absolutely correct, we fight every day for our children because they are deserving. Beautifully written post, thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Amazing! The quote about every family haing their thing is so tru and so inspiring… beautiful post and cause. Thank you!

  • Kristy Wilce says:

    Oh my this made me cry! It was wonderful! thank you so much!

  • Tugboat says:

    what an amazing experience! I worked with a special needs man for a couple years, and he was part of a special olympic team locally, and I always enjoyed taking him! It was just so fun and being apart of it I will never forget!

  • Tugboat says:

    what an amazing experience! I worked with a special needs man for a couple years, and he was part of a special olympic team locally, and I always enjoyed taking him! It was just so fun and being apart of it I will never forget!

  • What an amazing event! I have only participated with Special Olympic on a local level. The athletes and their families were amazing.

  • What a great experience for your Kat, I remember when the special olympics came to Glasgow, Scotland and I was so proud that my city was hosting such an amazing event. When I spoke about it in the years since I’ve been surprised how many people didn’t know what I was talking about and how many people didn’t believe that there was such a thing. It’s great that you have the oppotunity to show so many readers what it’s all about.

    Have a fabulous weekend,

  • That video was FanFreakinTastic!!!! LOVED IT! Thanks for sharing your journey with the Special Olympics. As a Mama of a kidlet with autism, I thank You for taking a journey with kids, with people of all different abilities. Everyone is different, everyone has their own challenges, and everyone deserves the chance to strive and thrive! :>