Special Olympics week deserves lots of support

Special Olympics Cayman Islands is celebrating its 21st Annual National Games Competition and Week of Awareness.

It starts tomorrow and lasts till next Friday at various venues. The athletes have been training hard over the past months and are eager to demonstrate their skills in competition.

SOCI is inviting everyone, but especially family members of Special Olympics athletes, to come out to the events.

As coaches, as volunteers, by providing supportive networks for other family members and as advocates for the movement, family members are making a difference to Special Olympics at all levels; local, regional and international.

Special Olympics understands that family members of present and future athletes are valuable and have an integral part to play in the movement.

As a result the organisation honours and recognizes family contribution and seeks to provide support and resources, while empowering family voices of leadership.

Families also recognize the impact that participation in Special Olympics has had on their child or family member with intellectual challenges.

Venezuelan mother of Special Olympic athlete Melanie Nadel said: ‘I don’t think that there is any limit to dreams; our children just need us to give them the opportunity to make their dreams come true.’

Special Olympics helps afford them that opportunity.

A study conducted in the United States documented the impact of participation in Special Olympics on families. Two-thirds of parents in the United States reported that involvement in Special Olympics raised their own expectations about what their children could achieve and more than 75 per cent reported that involvement in Special Olympics has connected them to a wider community of social support. This is probably true worldwide.

Local parent of Special Olympics athlete Faith Brandt agrees.

Myrtle Brandt has noted the impact that participation in Special Olympics has had on her daughter, which in turn has inspired Myrtle to become an advocate for Special Olympics Cayman Islands, sitting on the board of Directors as Families Representative and working on ideas to support and encourage other parents and family members.

Myrtle said: ‘It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be part of a body which promotes and encourages the development of athletes with intellectual challenges.

‘Having seen our athletes practising, I’m looking forward to keen competition next week at our Annual National Games and I’m hoping that they will receive the full support of family members and the public at large.’

Athletes recognize the value of families in Special Olympics too. Whenever athletes are asked about changes or improvements they would like to see in Special Olympics, more families’ involvement is high on the list.

Having families who support their efforts and achievements is very important to athletes. This is understandable; we all have that need, where we want for the people we love the most to see us excel.

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion among people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for nearly three million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries.

Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org