This is an excerpt from a speech by Special Olympics Athlete and Global Messenger, Lauren to the Special Olympics Massachusetts Board of Directors on February 28, 2017:
Throughout my involvement in Special Olympics I have held many titles; global messenger, head coach, volunteer, fundraiser, team coordinator, lobbyist, committee member and master of ceremonies. But the title that I cherish the most, the one that I hold close to my heart is athlete. Titles come and go but being an athlete is something no one can ever take away from you. I started Special Olympics when I was 9 years old. To my 9 year old Special Olympics meant friends. By 14 years old my disabilities became so overpowering in my life I moved to a residential school. To my 14 year old self Special Olympics was a loving connection to home. At 18 years old I was living on my own for the first time and experienced all the ups and downs that being a young adult entails. To my 18 year old self Special Olympics was a constant reminder to be true to myself. When I was 21 I encountered some difficult choices regarding my future. To my 21 year old self Special Olympics was the family that stood behind me while I made those decisions. I am now 25. To me Special Olympics is hope. Hope for the mother whose son starts showing signs of autism in preschool. Hope for the father whose disabled adult son applies for a job because he gained the confidence needed by being a team captain. Hope for the brother who never thought his wheelchair bound sister would ever play catch with him until he saw her compete in the softball throw. Hope. Because Hope is the foundation in which all other notions are built upon. And because Special Olympics doesn’t just change lives, it builds futures.