Column: Special Olympics Brings Fulfillment to Family

By Kendall Van Daele
HottyToddy Intern

When I was younger, I had a special needs older brother who passed away. My dad, Adam Van Daele, has been involved with the Special Olympics ever since. With these events, you have the option to volunteer, coach, and of course, be an athlete. Since some of the games are held in faraway countries, my dad still makes sure to donate to help out with the different organizations involved.

My dad has been volunteering/donating with the Special Olympics since I was a little girl. It has always been a big event growing up for us, and knowing that my dad makes a difference within this event is something to be proud of.

Now living in Colorado, my dad likes to help out with the winter games portion. When it comes to volunteering, he is usually helping out with the ski games.

People with all kinds of disabilities are able to come together and learn new things about their strengths/weaknesses through the power of sports.

“It’s really special to watch all these people, no matter the age, be able to work together and do something to take their minds off reality for a while,” Van Daele said.

The Special Olympics started off as a backyard summer camp in 1968 called Camp Shriver in Potomac, Maryland. This camp was for people with intellectual disabilities and is now a worldwide movement thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She was fed up with how people with disabilities were viewed and treated, causing her to take action. The first Special Olympics was held on July 20, 1968, in Chicago with around 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada.

It has now grown to become the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with disabilities and is free of charge for those participating. They put in year-round training, and competitions are held every day around the world. The games have summer and winter events that are held every fourth year in different parts of the world. The next Special Olympics will be held in Germany starting June 16, 2023.

With there being over 200 million people in the world with disabilities, the Special Olympics reaches out to everyone and their families to create new opportunities. They think it’s important to push the athletes to show off what they can do through 30-plus Olympic-style sports. From gymnastics to open-water swimming, there’s always a place for everyone.

“Having a busy schedule was hard, but I figured anything that I can do helps,” Van Daele said. “I started volunteering with these kids and have never looked back since. Knowing that you’re making even the slightest difference in these people’s lives is something to feel good about.”

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