My mother was a warrior. No, not someone who carried a sword and went into hostilities to harm, but rather a warrior for good, and for the well-being of people with intellectual disabilities worldwide.
My mother's battlefield was the Special Olympics organization she founded in 1968. Her weapons of choice were compassion, an enormous heart, a sharp intellect and a competitive spirit. She used her full arsenal of talents to fight for those who were not viewed by society to be capable, to be fully human, to be deserving of the opportunity to play, to compete, and to contribute to their community worldwide.
This Saturday, September 24, over 100 countries will celebrate the second annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day. Athletes, families and fans from around the world will play unified -- people with and without disabilities playing sports together -- to teach the world how to live unified.
My mother's genius was in using the power of sport to transform the world -- on the playing field, on playgrounds, in gyms and at schools. And the power of sport will be on full display this weekend with unified activities ranging from a Bart Conner-hosted gymnastics event in Norman, Oklahoma, a cricket tournament in Pakistan and football matches in Namibia to track and field competitions in Myanmar and Family Forums in Korea. I could go on and on.
EKS Day promotes play as a form of service. My mother believed in the very fiber of her being that, regardless of who we are or where we live, each of us has something to give, something the world needs from us. We all have talent, value and worth in the eyes of God and in the eyes of our families and communities. At the very least, all of us can play.
Play Unified is the theme for this year's EKS Day. Our hope is that people with and without intellectual disabilities will be inspired to play together and compete together. Playing Unified means that every child and every adult can be included in activities that are challenging and fun, healthful and joyful.
So, get out and play tomorrow. Volunteer, coach someone, referee, cheer or do anything else that includes people with intellectual disabilities. My mother believed that, by doing so, our nation would be a better place and indeed the entire world would be a better place for everyone.
All of us can be warriors like my mother -- architects of change, as I like to say -- by giving the best of ourselves this weekend, all in the service of play.
To find an EKS Day event in your area, visit www.eksday.org
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