Special Olympics: Learn how it all began — and why

SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Tucker Paving team will be entered in the Winter Haven Police Department’s fourth annual 5K Benefiting Special Olympics Florida. We’re encouraging as many people as possible to join them in the race or, if that’s not possible, to support Special Olympics Florida in other ways.

The 5K is coming up March 11, and Tucker Paving is pleased and honored to be a title sponsor again this year. You can learn more about the event at Winter Haven PD’s Events for Special Olympics Florida Facebook site at https://bit.ly/2jP2bVQ, and you still can register to participate at https://bit.ly/2kbXghp.

Special Olympics is such a wonderful program and organization. According to the Special Olympics Florida website — specialolympicsflorida.org — the program got its start in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver “saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action.”

Continuing from the Special Olympics Florida website: “Soon, her vision began to take shape, as she held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities — and not dwell on what they could not do.

“Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver continued her pioneering work — both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for justice eventually grew into the Special Olympics movement.

“In 1968, Mrs. Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, in the belief that the lessons these athletes learned through sports would translate into new competence and success in school, in the workplace, and in the community. Above all, Mrs. Shriver wanted the families and neighbors of people with intellectual disabilities to see what these individuals could accomplish, to take pride in their efforts, and to rejoice in their victories.

“Today, Special Olympics Inc. is the world’s largest provider of fitness training, education and athletic competition — coupled with social, life, and leadership skill development opportunities — for children and adults with intellectual disabilities or a similar developmental disability. Special Olympics Florida, an accredited program of Special Olympics Inc., was founded in 1972 and is one of the largest volunteer-driven athletic organizations in the state.”

Special Olympics Florida shares that it’s mission “is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.”

The ultimate objective of Special Olympics Florida, according to the organization’s website, “is to help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs.”

Special Olympics Florida, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.