Posts Tagged ‘Eunice Kennedy Shriver’

Jul 20,2010

Special Olympics begins its national games in Lincoln

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The torch runner from Tilden climbed the stairs as thousands cheered.

Evan Davis, a Special Olympics athlete, held the torch in the air and then ignited the silver cauldron. The flame shot high.

The Flame of Hope.

And the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games – the biggest sporting event in the history of the state – officially began Sunday evening at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

“Wow,” said Tim Shriver, son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. “What a moment.”

The Special Olympics International CEO told the crowd he felt honored, grateful, emotional. And ready.

He said he was thrilled to have these games in Nebraska, a state with a pioneer spirit. A state of trailblazers, like his mother.

She saw obstacles everywhere when she first started the Special Olympics, he said. And no one, he said, believed her. But she believed in the athletes.

And these games.

“Are we ready to let these games begin?” Shriver said. “Are we ready to say those words my mother said … ‘Let the games begin!'”

The opening ceremony began with the Parade of States. Each delegation of athletes walked in like rock stars – 3,600 athletes from 47 states. They walked through smoke from smoke machines. Many wore the Husker-red sunglasses, the signature item of these games.

Some danced.

Team Alabama wore houndstooth hats in a salute to coaching legend “Bear” Bryant.

Team Texas did the “Hook ’em Horns” symbol.

Team Maryland wore hats shaped like crabs.

“From the state that gave us the best crabs in the world!” the announcer proclaimed.

Brooklyn Decker, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model who was one of the emcees and whose aunt has competed in Special Olympics, helped escort Team North Carolina, her home state. Her husband, Nebraska native and tennis champ Andy Roddick, helped lead the athletes’ oath.

Actor Eddie Barbanell, Decker’s co-emcee, helped escort Team Florida, his home state. He was in the movie “The Ringer” a few years back, upstaging Johnny Knoxville in their scenes together. Barbanell has Down syndrome.

“American Idol” finalist Michael Sarver, a big guy, walked in with the big state of Texas.

And, finally, Team Nebraska, with the biggest delegation – 286 athletes.

“This is OUR team!”

People stood and applauded a long time. Team Nebraska’s athletes wore red shirts and waved white towels over their heads.

Amanda Marshbanks, a Lincoln swimmer, rocked out with her towel.

Among Team Nebraska’s escorts were Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz, a bobsledder from Shelby; Gov. Dave Heineman and his wife; Sen. Ben Nelson; Rep. Jeff Fortenberry; and Mayor Chris Beutler.

The games – the culmination of three years of planning – run through Friday. More than 19,000 people are expected to participate, including athletes, friends and families and volunteers.

“We have rolled out the red carpet – and the red sunglasses,” the governor told the crowd. “As our guests, I know you will experience a friendly and warm welcome here in Lincoln and throughout the state.”

The athletes cheered Grammy-winning singers Jars of Clay and Sandi Patty. They watched inspirational videos about athletes and the roads they took to Lincoln.

Near the end there was a moment of silence for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died last August.

Decker, the model, asked Barbanell, the actor, to talk about his friendship with Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

What did she mean to him?

“She never gave up,” Barbanell said. “She never said no to Special Olympics athletes. She told us to never quit.

“As she used to say, ‘The sun never sets on the Special Olympics.'”

He blew kisses to her. He aimed high, in the direction of the sky.


Jul 20,2010

Celebs Turn Out to Raise Awareness for Special Olympics

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We all know athletes and their family and friends are having a week to remember.

But they’re not alone.

If you’re taking part in any of the USA National Games events this week, don’t be surprised if you see a famous face in the crowd.

Numerous actors, musicians and politicians are in the Capital City this week to learn about the Special Olympics and try to raise awareness.

For some Special Olympics athletes, meeting American Idol finalist Michael Sarver is a dream come true. Sarver is taking part in USA National Games activities to help raise awareness. “Just the way they approach everything they do so passionately with so much life. It’s life-changing. It changed the way I am just in one day.”

Also causing quite an attraction is model, actress and Special Olympics spokeswoman Brooklyn Decker.

The two are spending much of their time at Special Olympics Town interacting with the athletes.

Sarver says, “I think that’s probably the most important part of this event because people need to be aware of how special these guys are and how amazing it can be.”

Decker adds, “It’s such an honor and a pleasure to be here. I don’t think people realize when they come, when they volunteer, they actually get more out of it than the athletes do.”

Decker’s aunt is a Special Olympics athlete. They started out just playing sports casually with each other, but then Decker says she wanted to do more. “I wanted to get involved on a bigger scale so how better than to be involved in the National Games.”

Also getting some attention is former Special Olympics athlete and star of the movie “The Ringer” Eddie Barbanell. “I love the USA National Games. It means a lot to me rooting on the athletes in competition.”

And he’s reminding the athletes of one thing as he makes his way around this week. “I want them to win and not give up, to strive to be the best. In the words of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, ‘never, never, never, never quit.'”

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Jul 19,2010

Brooklyn hosted The Special Olympic Games 2010

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Music and entertainment filled the Bob Devaney Center Sunday afternoon during the official kick-off to the USA National Games.

State by state, Special Olympics athletes entered the Bob Devaney Center to the roar of thousands of family and fans. The state with the loudest cheers by far was Nebraska.

Three thousand, six hundred athletes from 47 states cheered their way through performances by Rachel McClusky and the national anthem sung by recording artist Sandi Patti.

Actress and model Brooklyn Decker and actor Eddie Barbanell hosted the ceremonies.

The entertainment continued with performances by Jars of Clay and American Idol season 8 finalist, Michael Sarver.

Runners completed the 9-day journey of the Special Olympics flame with a ceremonial lighting of the torch to officially begin the games.

But not before guests remembered the woman who started the organization decades ago: Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Her son, Tim Shriver, who took over his mother’s legacy spoke of the woman his mother was and urged to continue the fight for acceptance. “We leave this ceremony determined to change not just Lincoln, not just to teach Nebraska but to change this country until the day when there is every opportunity for every person no matter their different abilities to compete to play on the playing field and in life.”

Strong words coming from the son of the woman whose vision led all these athletes here.