The Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs, the Special Olympics have created a model community that celebrates diverse gifts for almost 2.5 million children and adults in more than 170 countries.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics provide opportunities for people with restricted capabilities to realize their potentials, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.
In Thailand, there are 33 annual events held in 4 regions with the venues changing each year, except for Pattaya, which hosts an annual event. Jesters Care for Kids has been proud to have been a part of this for the past three years, donating B250,000 during that period. This year the competition was held at School No 7 and attracted 202 special athletes from nine districts surrounding Pattaya.
Locally there were children and young adults from Sattahip, Rayong and Chonburi, including the Guranyawet Disabled Ladies, Special School No 7 and Khao Bai Sri Special Education. From further away, there were also teams from Chachengsao, Samut Prakhan and Trat.
The disciplines contested were futsal, bocce ball and field and track, which also included shot put. What is commendable is the work of the volunteers necessary to stage the event with 90 coaches, carers and monitors who give of their time freely.
Event winners show off their medals.
Last year this process identified 32 special needs athletes to represent Thailand at the World Special Olympics held in Athens, where they competed successfully to win 9 gold medals. That our contribution in some small way enabled these children to have that experience makes it even more worthwhile.
It is doubtful whether the two days uncovered any prospective Olympians (although one boy from Chachongsao looked very speedy), but, nevertheless, the spirit of competition and the joy of participating was evident. A fist pump from a small autistic girl finishing last said it all!
The proceedings passed with only one small incident when a boy collapsed from heat exhaustion midway through the 200 metre race; he was soon revived and will suffer no lasting harm.
Fortunately, the last event was just completed before a severe storm hit; but I doubt that it dampened the spirits of these special children. As for results, well there were no losers; only winners, especially those of us privileged to witness the spectacle.
If you would like to help special children like these, please visit us at www.care4kids.info and/or www.facebook.com/jesterscare.forkids.
This year, please remember that our Children’s Fair is on Sunday, September 9th and Gala Party Night on Saturday, September 22nd.
Racing towards the finish line, where everyone is a winner!