Last Sunday Paco and I took Alexander to compete with his team at the Northern California Regional Special Olympics bocce ball tournament at Campo di Bocce in Los Gatos. You may not have even known that bocce ball was a Special Olympics sport, but it is actually a favorite of the SO athletes. Perhaps this is because it’s not a very physically demanding sport, which allows athletes of all ability levels to participate, have fun, and experience a high level of success.
If you have never been to a Special Olympics event, I highly recommend you do so. There is nothing more inspiring (or tear-jerking) than seeing these athletes give their all to whatever sport they are playing, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more moving display of sportsmanship, cooperation, and mutual kindness anywhere.
All SO events begin with opening ceremonies: a chosen athlete says the Pledge of Allegiance, another sings the National Anthem, and then another athlete leads all the others in reciting the Special Olympics athletes’ oath:
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Finally, a specially chosen athlete comes running in carrying the Olympic torch and the event commences with the exclamation, “Let the games begin!”
SO athletes are sometimes quite serious and competitive about their sports. However, you will most often find them cheering on their fellow athletes, regardless of what team they are on. And it is not uncommon to see an athlete stop their own race or event to assist another athlete who has fallen or needs some sort of help. We could all learn from the compassion and sportsmanship of these special athletes.
Perhaps just as inspiring are the thousands of volunteers who make these incredible events possible, as well as the countless donors and sponsors who support Special Olympics. And, of course, I would be remiss not to mention Eunice Kennedy Shriver to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for having founded Special Olympics in 1968.
By the way, at Sunday’s event Alexander’s team, the “Monterey Rollers,” earned a bronze medal! But most importantly, they had fun, made new friends, and felt a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
If you feel so moved, you can make a tax-deductible donation to Northern California Special Olympics at https://support.specialolympics.org/a/give-in-your-state-now?state=nca&sourceid=1041147&ms=google-noca&gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjw3ueiBhBmEiwA4BhspPDSLxjHj2FIjjzs8svSGmRV2N-r25gGMJX6fhvHYalKV2kzHTN47BoCiXwQAvD_BwE.