"Disabilities are yet another manifestation of global diversity. Let us always be committed to the fundamental principles of dignity and equality for all human beings."
Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations
Last weekend Louis participated in the Quebec Provincial Special Olympics ski championship -- and earned GOLD in his division. It was an exciting day for Louis, and for us. We're so proud of Louis, his teammates and the volunteers we spent time with each Sunday this winter getting ready for the final competition of the season. We're especially proud of Danielle who also spent her Sundays skiing with Special Olympians when she could have stayed home and slept or Facebooked all day.
When you have a child with a disability there are times when you feel like you miss out on the "typical" experiences of raising a child -- like getting excited about a report card or grade, or......come to think of it, while sometimes we wonder how things would be if we were typical, as I write this, there's not that much we are missing. We certainly don't miss the politics of kid's sports and there are times we're thankful we don't have to endure tryouts, traveling teams and all that goes with that stuff which seems so important at the time, but in the long run, it is not. We appreciate each and every accomplishment and we don't take things for granted. Perhaps we've taken on the mantra "it is what it is" and we're enjoying the"12-year-old pre-teenage years before adulthood" stage of raising a child with a disability. We now focus on Louis' abilities and not his disabilities.
While we love participating in Special Olympics, we have always had Louis involved in "normal" sports as well. I hesitate to say normal, but it is what it is. As most coaches and teammates will attest, there's not a more loyal teammate than Louis. And as a parent, it's been awesome to sit in the stands at events over the last year and a half we've been in Canada and hear the other parents cheering for Louis...as if they know he's working twice as hard as anyone. During a basketball game last week when his team was clearly in the lead, it was the parents on our team yelling "pass the ball to Louis" and cheering him on saying "way to go" each time he handled the ball. At the same time we refuse to have him labeled as "special" in the games and unlike other teams, we won't let there be provisions and rules against guarding Louis. In other words, he does not receive any special treatment. And by the way, in his playoff game yesterday he had two great steals and his team won the Bantam championship!
Even though it's Special Olympics, don't think it's not competitive. These kids and adults can ski. They can ski so well it's easy to ask, "should they be in this competition?" And they want to win just like any other athlete. They want to stand on the medal stand. And yes, some get disappointed and that's not bad either as it's also an important life lesson. One athlete at the competition looked like a member of the Team USA Hockey Team when he received his bronze medal...he really wanted the Gold.
We're also proud to be Americans when we participate in Special Olympics...knowing the organization was started over 40 years ago in Eunice Kennedy Shriver's backyard and now involves over 3 million athletes in 150 countries. And kudos to the Canadian government for adding $2 million to Special Olympics Canada over the next two years to help enrich the lives of Canadians with intellectual disabilities through sports.
If there's a Special Olympics competition in your area, anywhere in the world, stop by. Cheer on the athletes. One thing is for sure, at these competitions everyone is cheering for each other. Parents, coaches, athletes, volunteers and fans. These kids (and adults) have to work harder....not just in sports but in life.