"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
~Special Olympics Athlete Oath~
For the past three years, I have freely and excitedly supported my friends and co-workers in their quest to raise money for Special Olympics of Illinois by writing out checks, making soups to assist in their lunchtime fundraising efforts at school, and cheered them on from a distance while I sat snuggled up under the warmth of a fleece blanket from the comfort of my couch on a cold early March afternoon as they voluntarily submerged themselves into an ice covered Loon Lake.
While these women have been very appreciative of my efforts to date, this year those simple tasks on my part aren't going to cut it. Not entirely against my will, I have agreed to join these friends as well as several other teachers in our district to be a part of The Polar Coalers. As a result of this commitment, on March 4th you will be able to find me running into (and VERY quickly after out of) an ice covered lake in Yorkville, Illinois all in the name of showing support for and honoring some amazing students that I have had the pleasure of working with.
I've heard the jokes about Special Olympians. I know the preconceived notions that some narrow minded people may hold. I suppose to the average person it may be easy to dismiss them as not "real" athletes. But I dare you to find a group of people who demonstrate more determination and perseverance not only in their sport but also in their life. These individuals are constantly fighting against the odds, having to work harder to achieve the same success and recognition as their non-disabled peers. I have learned incredible lessons from these students and athletes about what it means to "never say never"; they encourage me on a daily basis to challenge the way I think and do my job in an effort to give them the tools they need and deserve in order to live a happy, full, fulfilled life.
Several of my students participate in Special Olympics, and I can not say enough about the positive impact participation in their sports have had. I've watched their self-esteem skyrocket, their social relationships blossom, and their overall confidence shoot through the roof. This is a group who from birth has constantly been faced with statements filled with "she won't be able to" and "he will never" - and thanks in part to the opportunities generated by participation in Special Olympics they have turned those statements into "I will, I have, I did, I can".
I know times are tough and money is tight. The holiday season is upon us and extra funds are being earmarked to make your child's Christmas morning dreams come true. However, I'm asking that you might consider making a small donation to this cause by clicking here or by accessing my fundraising page from the link I've placed on the sidebar of this blog. You are also more than welcome to make an in person donation to me anytime before our plunge. Any contribution you would be willing and able to make - no matter how big or small - would be greatly appreciated as I work to reach my fundraising goal of $250. I hate asking people for money - hate it to the point where I'll pay an exemption fee to not have to try to sell goods for the girls' soccer fundraiser or throw out school related fundraising forms as soon as they come into the house - but I believe in this cause and I hope that maybe you will to.
My students - and the thousands like them - deserve it.