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In the Special Olympics movement, we have so many amazing youth who are inspired to become the leaders of today and make a difference in their communities by creating acceptance and respect for people with intellectual disabilities.

One of these inspiring youth leaders is Kaitlyn Smith. Kaitlyn recently visited Washington, DC to participate in Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and celebrate Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. In the excerpt below, Kaitlyn powerfully exemplifies the impact Mrs. Shriver continues to have on people with intellectual disabilities, our athletes, youth leaders, family members and more. Enjoy! (Originally posted on the Special Olympics Project UNIFY blog)

Standing on the National Mall in Washington DC, I take a minute to step back and let it all soak in. All around me are children of all abilities smiling, playing sports, and having a great time playing together. The more I watch, the more I realize that this is it, this is Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision and this is her victory! On September 24th, I not only had the opportunity to celebrate Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s life in Washington DC, but I got to do so in conjunction with the Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play. All day I got to help and witness children with and without disabilities playing sports, and doing so with unity and respect for each other. Throughout the day I saw the amazing work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver having an impact on our world.

During the event, a woman came up to me and asked me who Eunice Kennedy Shriver was; however, that question is not one that could be answered easily. Yes, she is the woman that started the worldwide movement of Special Olympics from a summer camp in her backyard, but she did so much more than that… she changed the world. The more I attempted to answer her question, the more I started to realize that it is not something that can be answered in words.

When you have the opportunity to watch a basketball game that has individuals with and without disabilities playing together; that is thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. When you see someone without a disability be friends with someone that has an intellectual disability; that is thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. When you can see individuals with disabilities smile with success because they were given a chance; that is thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s life cannot be adequately explained in words. You need to see the smiles on the athlete’s faces, the strength in every kick, and the joy of every win. Mrs. Shriver’s life and legacy lives on through all of the athletes of Special Olympics.

It was such an honor to be able to be in Washington DC to celebrate the life of such an incredible lady. Mrs. Shriver has touched the lives of millions of athletes, and more to come. She went against all odds, touched the lives of a population that many wouldn’t dare to, and completely changed the mind-set of the world. Her life, legacy, and passion will live on forever.

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