"Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt". These are the words spoken by Special Olympians around the world. These words will be repeated tomorrow evening - June 4th - at the RI State Summer Games. My husband & I will be sitting in the stands, with Annie & her husband, and with other friends. Our children will be on the field, repeating the pledge. For the fourteenth year I will be watching the approximately 2000 athletes and coaches as they march in the Parade of Athletes. For the fourteenth time I will be incredibly proud, and amazingly humbled. My two boys will be dancing with excitement and waving at all of us in the stands. They won't be thinking about the work, the commitment and the love that brought them there. They will only be thinking about how much fun they are having. But for the fourteenth year, I will have tears in my eyes as I watch them, the children of my friends and the athletes I have met over the years.
Fourteen years ago, at my first State Game, I wept. I had always felt alone & isolated as the mom of a little boy with a serious disability. But as I looked out over the crowd of athletes, coaches and families, I felt at first, afraid. So many. So many people with a disability. So many parents who struggled. But even as I felt afraid, I began to feel supported. By all those people with a disability. By all of those parents who were standing so tall in their pride of their child. And I felt "I belong here. This is my community".
Tonight I will finish packing up the duffel bag, roll up the sleeping bag, pack the meds, the snacks, the personal care items. I'll kiss Paul goodnight and remind him - "tomorrow". And in the morning he'll go off with his staff person/coach for his favorite weekend of the year. Henry & I will follow, along with Annie & Lloyd. We'll watch Paul race his race, we'll cheer Lizzie in hers. Saturday Joshua will play Unified Soccer with his team and Paul will compete in the swimming pool. On Sunday, we'll all be exhausted. Medals will have been won, the dances will be over and we'll be back at home. But we'll carry the memories of a most important event. A time and place where parents and families find each other. Where our children learn self-confidence, the joy of competition and the ability to be graceful whther they win the Gold or Bronze medal. They will remember the friends they meet and will delight in showing their medals. We parents will have the opportunity to be proud of our children's achievements, whether they are large or small. And we'll have to wait another whole year to do it again. Thanks for listening. Next week I'll have pictures of the medals!