HISTORY OF SPECIAL OLYMPICS

In 1963 Eunice Shriver, John F. Kennedy’s sister, was operating a daycare center for mentally impaired children.  She noticed how energetic the children were and began an activity called Sports Day.  This was the beginning of what is now known as the Special Olympics.  Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.  

Mr. Chic O’Connor became active with the Special Olympics in 1969 when he attended a national swim meet for Special Olympics at Soldier Field in Chicago.  At that time the Special Olympics was a very small organization.  Mr. O’Connor’s daughter, born in 1958, has been participating in the Special Olympics since 1972.  She has 198 gold medals, four of which she won in the last swim meet.  In October 2001 Mr. O’Connor will be taking eleven athletes to the Special Olympics State swim meet at College Station.

In 1989 Mr. Mike Mahoney, State Treasurer and known as Mr. KC of West Texas, and Mr. Bob Parsons, Knights of Columbus State Deputy became interested in the Special Olympics.  In 1990 Mr. Ray Neumann, State Deputy, asked Mr. O’Connor at the State Convention in Lubbock to be the Special Olympics Chair for the Knights of Columbus State Council.  He accepted and funds began to be appropriated annually by the Texas State Charities.  State Deputy, Mr. Scott McDonald was a strong supporter of the Special Olympics and appropriated $1000 from the Texas State Charities.  Texas State Deputies starting with Mr. John O’Brien have continued to raise the annual where it is now $22,000;  Mr. Lou Barber to $5,000; Mr. Jake Gaona to $1,0000; Mr. Ron Gay to $13,000 and then to $15,000 his second year and Mr. Billy Quintanilla followed with $15,000.  The Knights of Columbus is the largest single contributor of funds to the Special Olympics.

In 1975 an international Special Olympics swim meet was held at Michigan Central at Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  There were eight foreign countries represented.  In 1995 the international swim meet was held at New Haven, Conn. and 143 foreign countries were represented.  The Supreme Council was so impressed they donated $1,000,000 to the cause.

The Special Olympics have continued to grow in number and now have a total of 22-24,000 athletes entered in the Spring Games, Fall Games, Swim Meets, etc.  The athletes range in age from 8 to 80 years.

Mr. Chic O’Connor has been working with the Special Olympics 32 years.  When asked for his report at the State Convention, he says, “I do not need money, I need bodies (volunteers) - the necessary funds will come; and volunteers are not useless, they are priceless!!”

Mr. O’Connor is very active in the community as well as the Special Olympics.  He helped foster Group Homes in his hometown, and there are 19 operating in Longview at this time.

Mr. O’Connor is known throughout the Knights of Columbus by his many quotes:

The smell of the rose remains on the hand of the giver.
Never has a man stood so tall until he bends down to help a handicap.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not be able to follow;
Don’t walk behind me, I may not be able to lead;
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
I need volunteers - the necessary funds will come.
Volunteers are not useless; they are priceless

Special Olympics is a true sport - athletes are not only trying to win but to compete and challenge.  They are not competing against the stop-watch or the opposing athlete, but against their own limitations.