In the Presence of Dignity

Our 2010 State Summer Games were amazing in more ways than I have room to write about.  Athletes competing in five sports bring a unique depth of “personality” to these Games, as do the 1,000+ volunteers who have come to make everyone’s three-day experience wildly successful.  Cycling and gymnastics are intimate with small numbers of athletes and lots of personal attention.  Track, bocce, and unified volleyball are off the charts HUGE and there is more to watch than one’s eyes can behold.  Of all the Summer Games moments that took place, however, I have chosen to write about one performance that has stayed with me.  No matter how this is going to read – I’m quite sure I won’t even come close to doing  it justice.

Around 10:00 Saturday morning I made it over to the Skills Competition.  Skills athletes are those with lower ability levels.  Many can not walk, talk, feed, or care for themselves.  As you watch these athletes it doesn’t take long before what you are seeing catches up to what you are feeling.  You realize that you have absolutely no clue about what it takes to care for these athletes, nor do you really understand much about their vulnerability. 

One athlete participating in the tennis ball throw was able to stand on his own, but had little control of his arm motions.  When he finally grabbed onto the ball,  a small group of volunteers quickly urged him to throw.  The ball never left his grip.  His arms flailed uncontrollably.  More time passed – more volunteers gathered around him.  Cheers of encouragement grew in number. 

More time passed, and it became very apparent that not one of us there was giving up on this young man, but more importantly, he was not giving up on himself.  We all shared in his struggle – witnessed unbelievable determination – and finally, as the ball flew into the air, we  celebrated the human spirit that brought a tremendous sense of accomplishment to a very simple task.

That morning I experienced a rare presence of dignity – defined as the quality of character that wins respect of others.  It felt reverent.  Even after twenty plus years of experiencing the accomplishments of our amazing athletes, I left this particular morning ever more humbled.


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2 responses to “In the Presence of Dignity

  1. Darren Wilkins


    Amazing writing as I can feel as if I was there experiencing it. Unfortunately I didn’t arrive that day until later in the afternoon but I still felt the same feelings you share.

    Thanks for bringing that feeling to the forefront all over again.



  2. Jill Tatz

    Hi Randy
    I don’t think we say it often enough, but a great big hug and thank you to everyone at Special Olympics for the wonderful job you did at the State Summer Games. Once again, it was a fabulous event! It is something we look forward to every year, and it just keeps getting better and better. Thank you to all the SONM staff for all your efforts and the wonderful work you do!!
    The Tatz Family

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