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Breaking Barriers

at the Special Olympics
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In 1946, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation was established to address the neglect of people with intellectual disabilities (ID). This overlooked population often faced discrimination and exclusion from the public eye. One of the Foundation’s leading figures, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, personally identified with its mission to improve society’s association with citizens who had intellectual disabilities – one of them was her sister, Rosemary.
In 1962, Shriver created a summer camp in her Washington, D.C., backyard and welcomed dozens of young people with ID to take part in various sports. By 1968, that local camp had grown to a national scale, known today as the Special Olympics. This unique athletic opportunity was fueled by one amazing idea, “Through sports, children with intellectual disabilities can realize their potential for growth.”
In the decades since, participation in the Special Olympics has exploded to an international level. The Special Olympics now includes more than 30 individual and team sport competitions that are held annually: basketball, figure skating, golf, judo and snowboarding just to name a few. Millions of young athletes with ID have been given the chance to break stigmatized barriers around the world.
But not without help. To ensure each of its 33,000 competitions run smoothly, this global non-profit depends on the aid of over half a million volunteers, monetary donations and corporate sponsorships.
FCCI sponsors Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando
In 2022, FCCI Insurance Group was a proud sponsor of the Special Olympics. One of the athletic events was soccer, and there were several tournaments to watch on a warm summer's day. Eager to offer support, a dozen FCCI teammates and their families filled the seats as ‘fans in the stands’ for every soccer player on the field. Equipped with homemade signs, applause and supportive cheers, teammates and their kids volunteered to help encourage the athletes and their families – the experience exceeded their expectations.
“What was amazing were the kids,” remarks Kelly Magyar, an FCCI Sr. Associate Underwriter from the Orlando Branch Office. “You could see the joy and excitement in their faces. They could put their inabilities to the side that day and just be athletes. It was a natural experience. Even when we could see rainstorms approaching in the distance, the athletes and the fans wanted to stay.”
Just as Shriver intended, the games not only teach young people with ID their potential, they remind society of how much they are capable of achieving. Victor Ramos-Diaz, an FCCI Agribusiness Underwriter among the volunteers that summer day remembered, “Two years ago, I was introduced to the world of disabilities through a fellow volunteer who has a child with special needs. It was very eye-opening. I wanted to give that opportunity to my kids; to see that kids with disabilities are just like us. My kids were cheering them on instead of asking questions. They will remember this experience so they won’t discriminate as they grow up in life.”
When Kelly was asked what made their volunteer opportunity unique from the rest, she answered, “We got to bring our kids. They got to experience something larger than life – something they’ll carry with them forever.”
What began in a backyard is now an international mission. Shriver’s idea of fostering healthy and inclusive communities is a legacy that FCCI teammates are eager to support. “At the end of the day,” says Victor, “we’re all kids playing. The Special Olympics unites us; those with and without disabilities.”