Special Olympics

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations

Neither Ray nor I knew what miracles were possible. At one hundred and eighty-five pounds, five foot ten inches tall, and a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome, Ray was a Special Olympic athlete with a dream to become a champion, but his mental handicap blocked his path.

Although my family and I had long volunteered for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Meals on Wheels, and other charity organizations, helping the Special Olympics never interested me. I needed community service hours for a leadership group, however, and decided to apply to be a Special Olympics referee and mentor.

In November, the chair of the Special Olympics committee introduced me to Ray, the young man whose mentor I would become. We had only one week together before his upcoming floor hockey championship. At first, Ray was unmotivated and uncooperative; this made me feel impatient and uninterested as well. I tried repeatedly to make him practice and improve his athleticism, but at the end of the day I felt about as unmotivated as Ray did. It wasn’t until the day I found Ray crying in the back of the locker room that a sudden realization struck me. Sobbing, he explained that he felt like a poor athlete and an embarrassment to his father, an overly competitive...

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