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Amid Tragedy, Special Olympics Community Rallies Behind Athlete

March 5th is China's annual "Learning from Lei Feng Day" when various organizations and institutions call on people to learn from Lei Feng, a cultural icon symbolizing selflessness, modesty and dedication. This year, Special Olympics Athlete Lai Jing made her most important decision in her life on this significant date: to sign off human organ donation agreement. 

Lai Jing's Story

The 24 year old Special Olympics bowling athlete Lai Jing was born a healthy baby girl in Yongding County, Longyan City of Fujian Province in China. A car accident at the age of 8 left Lai with permanent brain damage. Lai's family did not give up on their little girl and sent her to Longyan Special Education School in 2000, but later that year, another car accident hit this family and it was Lai's father, who died of hepatic rupture after half month of waiting for a liver transplant. 

From then on, Lai's mother had to raise a family of three children including one intellectually disabled. Lai Jing enjoyed being a Special Olympics bowling athlete. She earned a box of medals to make her mom happy and proud, two of which were from the 2007 World Games in Shanghai. When Lai's mother thought the bad days were gone, the doctor told her in 2010 that Lai's brain damage became worse – it turned to encephalatrophy, and she wouldn't have much time. Lai continued to transcribe bible and dance with neighbors. Christmas 2012, she was sexually assaulted and had emotional breakdown, which worsened the encephalatrophy. The doctor said she would only have several months live.

Lai’s mother felt heart broken. Early this year, her mother saw news on TV that someone needed an organ transplant to survive, and that recalled how desperately her husband needed an organ donation before he died. So Lai's mother came to a proposal and asked Lai Jing if she would like to donate her organs to save someone. 

Words of Encouragement

On March 19th, Ms. Mary Gu, the Regional President of Special Olympics East Asia went to Lai Jing’s home at Yongding County along with officials from China Disabled Persons’ Federation in Fujian Province. Mary brought an inspiring letter written by Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, on behalf of 4 million athletes and their parents all over the world to Lai Jing and her mother. He wrote “It seems sometimes that we have to say goodbye to the past and it seems too that we all have to say goodbye to life itself. And in a way, we do. But in another way, moments of love never die and moments of joy never end and when we close our eyes, we get a sense of how they live on in our hearts.” These simple words expressed the love and blessings from the global Special Olympics family. 

The criminal has been arrested and is awaiting trial. It was really difficult to find the words to comfort them, Mary told Lai Jing that if she could listen to her mom to start eating, she would feel better and perhaps be strong enough to compete again in the next world games in America. Lai Jing was very fragile, but still, she held Mary’s hand really tight and said "yes," with a sweet smile on her face. 

May this beautiful promise come true one day and that more and more people care about people with intellectual disabilities like Lai Jing! Because all of us are linked so closely with each other in name of love by nature and there is no difference between “them” and “us”. In a world that cherishes love, we are the same.