Thanks, Eunice Kennedy Shriver!

Whatever your political inclination or nationality, you probably acknowledge that the Kennedy family has been behind some very important events in American and world history. Yesterday, I learned that Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away. They were giving her a wonderful tribute, highlighting her best-known accomplishment: founding the Special Olympics. I was caught up in work then, but I wanted to take a moment to say thanks in my own way.

Lily’s mobility issues (and epilepsy) have severely limited the sports in which she’s been able to participate, but she’s always loved the water. One of my favorite My Sister is Braver Than I Am stories took place when she was in preschool. At the time, she was attending a school focused on helping children with visual impairments, and only had a couple of classmates. Her teacher took the three of them to the pool, and was planning on letting two kids sit on the side while she worked with the third. Unbeknownst to her, while she took the first student out, my sister decided that she was ready to go in the water…so in she went. The teacher freaked out, of course, but managed to get both kids back onto dry land. (To the best of my knoweldge, Lily suffered no ill effects – I remember being a little too amused, even though I wasn’t more than seven or eight years old at the time.)

Flash forward twenty-plus years: Lily was living at home, and I was in grad school. She had left high school and was participating in a number of courses at the local community college, particularly in their physical education department. Among those was a swimming class, letting Lily have plenty of pool time. She’s gotten pretty good at swimming, all things considered, and is capable of mostly-independent locomotion…even if she still needs flotation devices. One of the best pictures we have of her is the day she raced in a Special Olympics event. She’s absolutely beaming, holding herself at the side of the pool – and though her blindness means she couldn’t see it, there were no adults there doing the work for her.

I still look at the picture sometimes and just smile.

So thanks to Mrs. Shriver and everyone that helped her bring the Special Olympics to life. I don’t know much about you, ma’am, but your role in that moment of joy is worth more to me than I could ever say. RIP.


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