Special Olympics Bharat’s Cricket team at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China.

We won the Lottery today!

Jealous? Don’t be. Here’s our story.

Ten years ago, a couple of friends and I bought a lottery ticket that advertised a 1 million jackpot. We knew the chances weren’t great that we’d win, but we decided to buy anyway. Everyone has that feeling once in a while: “what the heck! You never know what might happen so let’s take a chance.” We bought our ticket from a guy named Denzil Keelor. I think we bought it because he looked like a winner. It might seem crazy but we thought that if the salesman was a winner, then maybe he’d make us winners too.

So you can imagine our surprise when we woke up this morning to find out that our ticket won. We won! The promised 1 million is ours. It may have seemed impossible and it was surely unlikely. But sometimes, when you imagine something to be possible, it comes true. That man Keelor who sold us that ticket over a decade ago turned out to be everything we’d hoped he’d be.

The first question everyone asks when you win the lottery is, “what are you going to do with your winnings?”

The answer requires an explanation.

We didn’t win our 1 million in dollars so we don’t have to worry about paying taxes. We didn’t win it in Euros either so we don’t have to worry about currency exchanges. And we didn’t win it in Rupees either even though we won it in India.

We won it in human capital. You see, today, the people of Special Olympics in India announced that they had achieved the unthinkable goal of bringing ONE MILLION ATHLETES into the community we call Special Olympics. That’s right: Special Olympics in India has one million athletes participating right now. They’ve joined to play sports like football and cricket and athletics. They’ve joined to learn leadership and self-advocacy skills. They’ve joined to teach lessons about acceptance and human diversity in schools around their great nation. They’ve joined to give their families a community of support and empowerment. They’ve joined by the thousands in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashta and West Bengal and in villages and towns all over the subcontinent. They’ve made history.

Each one of them is a win for all of us.

That’s not winning the lottery you say? Think again. Building human capital is the most difficult thing in the world to do. When the community of contributing citizens expands, we each win the most difficult thing in the world to win: a place of belonging. When those who have been excluded are finally welcomed, we each learn the most difficult lesson to learn: that everyone counts. When athletes and families and volunteers join to create the Special Olympics community, we each find the joy that doesn’t fade: joy in generosity; joy in unity. And when millions of people leave the closets of shame and the dark rooms of despair to train and play and compete, we each win the most exhilarating of prizes: active bodies, strong and healthy lives.

Those of us around the world in Special Olympics took a bet a decade ago. It was a bet on the Chairman of Special Olymipcs Bharat, Denzil Keelor. It was a bet on the world’s largest democracy, India. Most of all, it was a bet on the human spirit. Together, we pledged to do anything in our power to enable the people of India to become leaders in the world of acceptance and health and sport and joy.

Today, we won more than any financial prize could hope to deliver: we won faith in the human spirit.

Thanks to everyone in Special Olympics Bharat. All over the world, you made it possible for us all to feel like we won the lottery. Let the celebrations begin!!


3 thoughts on “We Won the Lottery!!

  1. Thank you Mr Shirver! You, your wonderful mother, and everyone involved with this amazing group of people have improved my son’s life a million times over. You have done us all proud and we can never repay the debt that is owed.
    Our sincerest appreciation ,
    Mark, Kathy and Jonathan Doring
    Special Olympics Florida, Palm Beach County

    • Dear Tim, This is GREAT news for our program! This movement NEVER ceases to amaze me, even though I’ve been a longtime participant-going back to when both you and I served together on Special Olympics Connecticut’s Board of Directors. What was done in India is a tribute to the work of EVERYONE involved in their program-from the staff through the volunteers-they did all of the work needed to acheive their goal-and it’s a Shining example to everyone else that NOTHING is impossible when we all pull together,we can do anything.Too bad the U.S. Congress doesn’t seem to work like that. Mark Swiconek Special Olympics Florida Hernando County athlete Leader

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