For those of you that do not know, I was a gymnastics coach for 20 years. I coached men and women’s Special Olympics for the last 12 years of that period. As the Virginia Men’s head coach I was honored to have two of my students make it all the way to the “World Games”.
It was at my first “Special Olympic World Games” I met Mrs. Shriver. My student was a young boy, “Bobby Vasquez”, who had more control of his body then most Special Olympians, so much so that he also competed with the club level students in the gym. Unknown to me Mrs. Shriver was paying close attention to Bobby. He was graceful, talented, and extremely flexible. During his floor routine Bobby made an uncharacteristic mistake. As he walked off the floor Mrs. Shriver could tell that Bobby was very down on himself. She came out from the stands and down to the floor to talk to Bobby and help lift his spirits. She told Bobby that she had been watching him and thought he was a great gymnast and it was a pleasure to watch him. She continued to talk to him for a while. Bobby went on to do well on the last two events that day and won the Rings World Championship the next day.
I found Mrs. Shriver to be kind, loving, and giving from her heart. For her to take time to pay attention to just one student showed me her true heart. This was just who she was. Mrs. Shriver was always a hands on, one on one, person. Even into Her 70’s Mrs. Shriver remained a daily presence in the Special Olympics and it’s home office in D.C. She often talked about the satisfaction one gets working with Special Olympians.
I just wish that I had started coaching Special Olympics in the beginning vs. waiting as long as I did. Next to my wife, Infidel Granny, coaching Special Olympics was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. I owe that to Mrs. Shriver.
Called the moral compass of the Kennedy family, her strong belief that mentally handicapped people are more capable than was thought at the time led her to put together an athletic competition that is one of the largest sporting events in the world for over one million athletes. Mrs. Harrison Raine wrote, “When all the full judgment on the Kenney legacy is made, the changes made by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential”.
The world needs more people who will stand up and be a champion for those who are weaker, smaller, or can’t defend or speak for themselves. Mrs. Shriver will be missed by many Special Olympians who called her friend, and by me as well.
As Always Thanks for being involved, Many Blessings, Shane
“Standing Strong” & “Closing Ranks”
and still in the “Hunt For Red November”