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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post by David Evangelista, Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations.

“When I was born, some doctors made a somber recommendation to my parents: To let me die. According to these doctors, it made no sense to prolong my life.”

It is with these powerful words that Special Olympics Global Messenger Ariel Ary from Costa Rica opened his keynote address at the 97th Lions Clubs International Convention -District Governor Elect School (LCI-DGE). Captivating some 1,500 leaders Lions Clubs International leaders from across the world, Ary highlighted the key role that civic leaders like Lions Clubs play in empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities through the growing Special Olympics & Lions Clubs International global partnership.

“I am very honored to be here with all of you, people who believe in teamwork as a key to success. People who believe in helping others…Lions Clubs around the world set the standards for respect, excellence, and solidarity. People in need have better lives because you, Lions Clubs, care for them. That is why I am here to tell you Lions Clubs- never, ever, ever give up!”

Ary underscored the many challenges that he and his parents have faced in accessing quality health care, mainstream education, and an integrated community life. Despite the recommendation made by the doctors to his parents upon birth, Ary’s story represents the strong determination, perseverance, and drive that defines the lives of countless individuals with intellectual disabilities and their parents and caretakers. Ary speaks 4 languages, is a dedicated tennis player, an accomplished international speaker, and currently works at the multinational company IBM-Costa Rica.

The keynote delivered by Ary served as a strong expression of gratitude and excitement to Lions Clubs throughout the world for their continued support of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Through the shared partnership with Special Olympics, titled “Mission: Inclusion”, Lions Clubs International has helped provide a myriad of opportunities to athletes, including quality vision care, inclusive sports opportunities, early childhood development programming, family support, and much more.

Ary’s leadership is but one example of the impact that can be made through this partnership.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next!

Ariel Ary, left, with Aung San Suu Kyi at the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Pyeongchang Special Olympics World Winter Games  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Ariel Ary, left, with Aung San Suu Kyi at the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Pyeongchang Special Olympics World Winter Games
(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)

 

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