Special Olympics' special lady

Maria Cunningham

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics and a strong pro-life advocate, died yesterday.   "No one more than Eunice Kennedy Shriver understood better the power held by the most vulnerable in our society,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=16821). “She fought for those hidden in the shadows of life, while acknowledging that they teach us far more than we could ever offer them. She was consistent in her championing of every vulnerable human life.”

While I never met Mrs. Shriver, I would have been honored by the opportunity to thank this great lady for all that she has done for my intellectually disabled daughter.

Two years ago, my oldest daughter had given up hope.  The reality of her disabilities had overtaken her joy for living.  Being the oldest with nine siblings is a tough job for anyone.  It is even tougher when you are intellectually impaired.  You watch all of your siblings pass you in every part of growing up - socially, intellectually and emotionally.  You watch them become more and more independent, while your dependence on mom and dad becomes more and more obvious.  And as your childhood friends grow up and move on, for the most part they forget about you.  

I was desperate and storming heaven for some answers for my daughter.

Then we discovered the Special Olympics.  Life for my daughter has never been the same since.  She is an active Special Olympics athlete participating in biking, cross country skiing, track, sailing and soccer.   Last fall she ran with the Special Olympics athletes in the Marine Corp Marathon 10k in Washington, D.C.  This summer, she participated in a week long bike tour of Ohio, riding over 500 miles.  Proud doesn't even begin to express how my husband and I feel about our daughter and her accomplishments. 

I owe Mrs. Shriver so much.  She gave my daughter a new love for life when her hope was gone.  Mrs. Shriver opened up doors for her that once seemed to be closed.   She gave her an opportunity to shine for all her family and friends when it appeared that everyone else was achieving and growing up without her.  She gave her the opportunity for friendships when there were no friends to be found.   She gave my daughter back her pride in who she was and what she could accomplish. 

Thank you, Mrs. Shriver, for putting your respect for human life into action.  I have witnessed some of the many lives you have touched.  Your legacy will live on forever in the minds and hearts of the Special Olympic athletes and their families.

Topics: Culture , Current Events , Family , Special Needs

Maria Cunningham lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Chuck, and their ten children.   Maria provides a look into her life as a "mom-of-many" at her blog Home Sweet Heart.

View all articles by Maria Cunningham

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April 18, 2014

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