People around the world united to celebrate the spirit and legacy of Special Olympics' late founder and longtime Best Buddies supporter and board member Eunice Kennedy Shriver ("EKS") during the Second Annual EKS Day Sept. 24. Shriver dedicated her life to empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and showed the transformative power of sports to unite people of all abilities.
Scott Hamilton, American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist who now lives in Williamson County, attended an EKS Day event at Richland Country Club in Nashville. The following is an excerpt of his thoughts from the day's events:
I went to a luncheon the other day with an out-of-town friend. I wasn't supposed to go. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know about it until my wife told me she couldn't go due to our youngest son's first-ever school field trip. She was one of the volunteer moms. The table host at this fundraising lunch was concerned and a little upset because three of her invited guests had to drop out at the last minute. This luncheon and charity means the world to her.
So I offered up my friend Bob and myself to take her place. When I heard who the luncheon was for, I knew that it was more than a coincidence. It was for Best Buddies, an organization that pairs people with intellectual disabilities with someone that serves as a friend, mentor, and/or employer. In many respects, it resembles what Big Brothers Big Sisters does, pairing young people with a role model. I knew that this was going to be much more than a meal and a few speeches.
It delivered on so many levels: The first person to speak was a young girl with an intellectual disability. She spoke of her anticipation and excitement about FINALLY getting a buddy. I loved her more for her spirit and her ability to communicate what her world was like without the hope of having someone like the person about to enter her life. I openly wept when I heard her description of isolation, loneliness and a life lived without what most of us take for granted - a friend.
It was her first speech and she "hit it out of the park." She was opening hearts for an entire segment of our population that has little quality of life. The creator for this amazing organization is a man named Anthony Shriver. He just happens to be the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. Anthony cut his teeth in a house that had the mindset to give quality of life and opportunity to a significant percentage of our population that didn't have an advocate: people with intellectual disabilities. It's one thing to create an opportunity for a neighbor who needs help; it's another thing to change the world. Eunice Shriver changed our minds and our hearts for people of intellectual disability forever.
Anthony Shriver is doing the same in his way. Isn't it amazing that one person can change the world? it amazing that one person can change the world? Isn't it even more amazing that YOU, reading this right now, can participate in changing the world, as well? Even if it's for just one person. Special Olympics and Best Buddies make this world better, one human being at a time, millions of times a day. And they couldn't do it without all of us!
Going to that lunch wasn't a wonderful coincidence. It was meant to be - to make my heart grow a little bigger. And make me feel better about this world.