Los Angeles 2015 World Special Olympics

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Los Angeles 2015 World Special Olympics

OLP Sophomore Lily Lucero and friends pose at the 2015 World Special Olympics in L.A.

OLP Sophomore Lily Lucero and friends pose at the 2015 World Special Olympics in L.A.

OLP Sophomore Lily Lucero and friends pose at the 2015 World Special Olympics in L.A.

OLP Sophomore Lily Lucero and friends pose at the 2015 World Special Olympics in L.A.

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In April of this year, my family received a call from my cousin, Erika. Erika works with the kids in the Special Education department at her Virginia high school, and was calling to ask if she could come visit in the summer. The reason Erika plays such an important role in this story is because she is the reason I experienced something that happens once in a lifetime: the Special Olympics World Games.

As the months went by, the anticipation began to mount. All of a sudden I was seeing billboards and commercials advertising the games. Erika and I excitedly communicated, sending each other pictures of posters and audio recordings of radio advertisements.

The morning of July 25th, I woke up in a small Malibu house along the Pacific Coast Highway, anticipating the exciting day to come. After a walk on the beach, Erika, my mom, our friends, and I got ready and piled into the car. We then headed to Downtown Los Angeles for possibly the most inspiring night of my life.

When we arrived at the Los Angeles Coliseum on the USC campus, there were tons of people, and buses were packed full of athletes. We took our seats, and cheered as all of the athletes from all across the globe began to fill the stadium. As the sun set in Los Angeles, we listened to stories of triumph and opportunity, of being given a chance to shine in the world. Maria Shriver, daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who founded the Special Olympics, and Michelle Obama both gave moving and heart-tugging speeches. Then Tim Harris, a man who has Down’s syndrome walked onto the stage. As he entered, he hugged every person on the stage, including the First Lady. Everyone in the stadium became emotional when Mr. Harris spoke of the amazing organization that is the Special Olympics. Before he walked off the stage,  he said movingly into the microphone: “Your brave is brave enough, to not be afraid of anyone.” As all of LA “reached up,” the motto for the games, the torch made its way through the stadium to the stage, where it was lit. Fireworks surrounded us, everyone cheered, and the athletes danced to the festive music.

Crowds at the event. Photo by: OLP Parent

The next day, a group of us met in Long Beach where we cheered on the triathletes. We watched as they entered the water, hopped on bikes, then finished the race, running across the finish line. The first place winner was a 17 year old boy from Team USA named Noah. Everyone cheered and shed tears as he and all of the athletes crossed the line. The medals were placed around their necks, and I instantly thought of a quote I heard the night before at the Opening Ceremonies: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

The finish line for the swim competition. Photo by: Lily Lucero ’18

Monday morning we headed to the beach to watch beach volleyball. We eagerly watched an exciting game of Columbia versus Finland. One of the men on Team Columbia had Down’s syndrome, and every time his teammates made a solid effort, he high-fived all of them. He would jump up and down, pumping up the crowd, and at the end of the day my cousin and I went and congratulated him and his team. When we left that day, all I wanted to do was go back and experience more of this truly special event.

Attending the event. Photo by: OLP Parent

Watching the Special Olympics World Games was one of the best experiences of my life. It is hard to put into words just how much I admire and love the athletes of the Special Olympics. Their astounding perseverance is so inspiring. Every day they prove that they can do anything they set their minds to, an example for the rest of us who may be afraid to break out of our shells. They face disadvantages every single day, yet continue to be so happy and enthusiastic about having the blessing of life. I hope that someday I can attend the Special Olympics again because the games were such an amazing experience. I learned so much from people I didn’t even speak to. Their character and attitudes make me realize how blessed I am, and that I need to be grateful for everything I have. I will never forget their spirit and the roar of the crowd on that hot July night.

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