In celebration of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, youth leaders from around the United States came to Washington, D.C. to participate in Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and be examples of inclusion in action. Below are thoughts from two youth leaders about the amazing experience of inclusion, acceptance, unity and fun!
Nickelodeon’s Day of Play on September 22, 2011 in Washington D.C. was a celebration I believe Mrs. Shriver would have enjoyed! This day of united play is almost like the sports opportunities promoted through Special Olympics! Mrs. Shriver’s legacy is all about providing an opportunity for everyone to participate together in sports. No matter how strong we are, how perfect we are or how good we are – Special Olympics lets us try new things and challenges us to be our best everyday!
I want to tell everyone about Special Olympics because no matter who you are there’s something for you! You can be a young or older athlete, a unified partner, a fan in the stands, an ambassador, a volunteer, a coach, a fundraiser – ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BE! Whoever you are or whatever you do – you can give to others! What I’ve found by being an athlete is that I have to work hard to be the best I can be. All of us have something to give to others; we just have to work for it! Special Olympics inspires me to do my best in everything I do! I want to be an active member of my community. I want to give back to all the people who have helped me, encouraged me, taught me, and provided the opportunities for me to be strong, independent, and a young leader. I want to help Special Olympics grow so that everyone can stand unified in acceptance, respect and dignity for all people.
Mrs. Shriver’s legacy has inspired so many to be more than they thought they could. She promotes acceptance, hope and dignity. My dream joins hers so that we can continue carrying the torch and lighting the path for a more accepting world for everyone. I’m proud to be a Special Olympic athlete! Join us in carrying forward the message and vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver in promoting each individual to their fullest potential – in athletics, education, community living and employment! We can live her dream today!
– Jared, National Youth Activation Committee Member and Special Olympics Missouri athlete
Another youth perspective:
During the Nickelodeon World Wide Day of Play Event in Washington, D.C., over 50 organizations were present to educate, empower, and share their resources with the community. Special Olympics was one of them, which created a positive environment where all individuals regardless of ability, color, religion, and experience could play and learn through the power of Unified Sports.
Many preparations were planned in how to effectively reach out to people to share Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s legacy, demonstrate the influence of Unified Sports, and bring awareness about many initiatives of Special Olympics such as Project UNIFY. When the gates opened, floods of people dispersed throughout the Mall with happy faces, ready to have to fun! At the Special Olympics tent, various interactive and eye-catching posters captured the spirit of Special Olympics.
Next to the tent was a Floor Hockey area, where local Special Olympics Athletes came to teach others not just the sport, but through their teamwork showed perseverance, strength, courage, and true sportsmanship. Many of the spectators came to either participate in the skills building or playing the actual game!
One of the most touching experiences was a young child who used a wheelchair, was one of the participants in the skills building session. Even though she had certain physical limitations, she did not let them stop her from having fun! She tried her best, beaming with pride as she held the hockey stick. Fellow teammates cheered as she made the final goal!
Through Special Olympics…
…we accept people for who they are
…we respect people for their differences
…we empower people to do their best
And we create opportunities for individuals to see that everyone has value!