EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter shared with us from Special Olympics International Board Director, Osmond Kilkenny. Mr. Kilkenny recently attended the funeral for Gareth Cowin, a Special Olympics athlete from the Isle of Man who came to Korea to compete in the 2013 World Winter Games and tragically passed away.
In Korea, amidst all of the wondrous things that we saw, we lost one of our family. Tragically, shortly after his arrival in Seoul and after a short illness, Gareth Cowin representing the Isle of Man passed away. Gareth was 25 and had been accompanied to the games by his proud father Kevin. Gareth had competed at many of our games and he was the quintessential Special Olympics athlete. He loved and lived for sport and the opportunity to train and participate.
If ever we needed affirmation of the spirit of Special Olympics it was evident at the funeral of Gareth in the Isle of Man. This was the coming together of the family of Special Olympics to mourn and at once celebrate the passing of one of their own. It was a community brought together under the Special Olympics banner with stories of the joy that Special Olympics had brought to a life so tragically cut short. The funeral mass was an invigoration in itself because of its simplicity and clarity celebrated by a priest who was at one with his flock.
The honour guard was comprised of our athletes. It is difficult to convey the significance of what we experienced but here was a community whose common bond and solidarity is around Special Olympics. The eulogy given, at the commencement of the mass, by one of Gareth’s coaches was an uplifting collage of moments of enjoyment and mischief on Gareth’s global escapades at summer and winter games. It set the tone of celebration of life that his family sought in their last moments with Gareth.
This was a coming together of athletes, family, coaches and volunteers in a time of shared sadness and pain.
In this most unlikely of circumstances this was a truly uplifting experience.
Rest in peace Gareth Cowin. Your Special Olympics family will never forget you.
- Osmond Kilkenny
Editor’s Note: Watch the moment of silence in tribute to Gareth Cowin at the Closing Ceremony of the 2013 World Winter Games. (Apologies for some sound dropping, it was a broadcast issue that happened live at the Ceremony. And apologies for the ad, it’s a Ustream thing we cannot help.)
If you would like to make your own tribute to Gareth, please click here to visit our tribute page.