Special Olympics Ontario/London

Dear 31 year-old self,

Breathe. It’s going to be ok. No, it’s going to be fantastic. I know how you’re feeling. Life feels upended. Dreams are shifting. You’re fearful for this new little bundle who, you’ve just been told, has Down syndrome. You are worried about the impact on her older sisters. You are trying to peer into the future while at the same time, worried about what you will see. Will she have friends? Will she ever have a job? Will she be loved? You’re going to quickly adapt and rejoice in this new life but I’ll be honest, those fears won’t wash away for a while. You’re going to hear some professionals tell you what your daughter cannot do. Just let that information slip from your mind. She’ll prove them wrong, trust me on this. When Valerie is 12, you’re going to hear about an organization that will change her life. Your life. The lives of your whole family. She’ll join Special Olympics and you’ll think at first, that it’s just sport. You’ll soon realize how wrong that notion is. You’ll watch her make friends, learn skills, gain confidence. Ahh, confidence. Right now you don’t think that’s possible, do you? Just wait. Your older daughters will become volunteers, as will your husband and you. You’ll watch Valerie expand her involvement to multiple sports. She’ll be fit. She’ll graduate high school and leap into the working world, being hired by a coach who will have already witnessed Valerie’s determination and dedication to anything she commits to. Through Special Olympics, she’ll train in public speaking and give talks to groups large and small. She’ll become an athlete ambassador and a determined self-advocate. She’ll learn about nutrition and fitness. And then, she’ll push herself to achieve even more. She’ll compete in sports at Provincial and National games and then go on to represent Canada in Alpine skiing at the World games in Austria. You’ll think back to the moment you heard the doctor tell you she has Down syndrome when you watch her step onto the podium to receive a silver medal for her country. You’ll watch her raise her arms in celebration and you’ll wipe away tears of joy, tears that are a world apart from the ones you wipe away now. Valerie’s family and friends will be there to watch and celebrate, but there has already been a lot of celebrating. Instead of telling Valerie what she cannot do, for years Special Olympics has been celebrating everything she can. Right now you know nothing about this organization that will change your world. But you’ll learn. You’ll learn that Special Olympics London will have, as I write this, over 450 athletes, all people with an intellectual disability. They will be supported by over 200 volunteers. You’ll learn that a new donation would now fund expanding the programs to more teenagers and children. You’ll learn more but for now, just breathe. You’re about to become one heck of a fan.


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