My son Christopher was born in 1979. When he was 9 months old, he suddenly stopped developing. Eventually we learned that Chris is autistic. We were shocked, frightened and left wondering what sort of a life he would have. Around 30 years ago we were introduced to Special Olympics. I still remember the first time I attended a Special Olympics event; suddenly I was the outsider and Chris was the one who "fit in". And blossomed into a world class athlete who has represented Ontario in more than 6 national games in swimming and alpine skiing. In 2017 he represented CANADA in the Special Olympic World Games in Austria. Not bad for a kid who didn't talk until he was 5 years old and who could not tolerate crowds or loud noises.
But the impact of Special Olympics goes beyond sports. Chris lives on his own and works full time. He does his own laundry, cooking and cleaning of his apartment. He does his own banking and buying of food. He can independently navigate London Transit, VIA Rail and is comfortable flying. And while these are things that most of us can easily do, they represent a level of independence Chris' mother and I could only dream about when we first received that diagnosis.
All because of the confidence, skills and philosophy to life that Special Olympics has taught him: "Let me win, and if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt."
A donation to Special Olympics Ontario for the London Community Council, which coordinates programming and opportunities for 450+ athletes here in London, would help us to ensure that individuals like Chris continue to benefit from Special Olympics in the same way he has – and continues to do so!
Learn more about Special Olympics Ontario - London