How has Special Olympics Arizona impacted your life?
Special Olympics has provided me we a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some of the most pure and rewarding experiences of my life. I have had opportunities to learn more about people with intellectual disabilities by supporting the LETR events for 13 years and then 3 years ago a group of friends and I started the Florence San Tan Valley Delegation and I became a coach. Being a coach has changed who I am. Working in a prison and dealing day in and day out with people who throw their lives away on drugs and crime, you become hard and callus; coaching has brought laughter and compassion back to my heart. I can be tired and grumpy on a Saturday morning; but by the time the athletes show up an tell me how excited they are to be at practice and they tell me how much they love us for coming out to help them I am reenergized and have a renewed excitement for life and people.
What is your most memorable Special Olympics moment and why?
My most memorable experience is the one in which my husband got hooked on SO. About 6 years ago I needed him to help me deliver medals to athletes at a bowling tournament in the far north valley. He reluctantly agreed to give up his Saturday and wear his Class A uniform. He agreed he would do it for just a few hours. When we arrived, he was overwhelmed to say the least when athlete after athlete came up to him wanting a picture or to shake his hand. What happened next is the story he tells everyone he meets. There were four athletes standing on the podium excited and waiting for their medals; Darin would start with fourth place, then the silver medal. He would place the medal around the athletes’ neck and shake their hand. When he got to the bronze medal winner, he again placed the medal around his neck and went to shake his hand; the athlete was having no part of a handshake. The athlete reached out, grabbed my husband around the neck, and planted the longest kiss on his cheek LOL. My husband was shocked but graceful he stood there for several minutes until I could distract the athlete. In that moment, you could see my husband’s whole world change. He has been a huge supporter of SO ever since.
- Wendy Eccles