As team Oklahoma gathered at the Oklahoma Special Olympics offices in Tulsa recently for a team building exercise and uniform check, they were surprised by a visit from Loretta Claiborne, a world-renowned Special Olympic athlete, public speaker and Special Olympic board member.
Her visit was arranged by MTM Recognition in Midwest City, who manufactures all the Special Olympics medals and awards, worldwide.
Claiborne stressed to the team that with hard work, dedication to God, themselves and their team, they too could achieve all that she has.
Her life’s hard road to success was documented in the 2000 Walt Disney movie, “The Loretta Claiborne Story.” In the film, she said she went from total poverty, little to no chances for a normal life and expected to be institutionalized, to learning four languages, receiving two honorary doctorates, a 1996 Espy award and numerous other awards and honors.
And, all of this was made possible by Special Olympics and her special relationship with founder Eunice Shriver, she said.
Her story of finishing in the top 100 of all female runners in a Boston Marathon drew a gasp and applause from the crowd. She said her most memorable event was introducing President Bill Clinton at the 1995 Special Olympic World Games. With a grin she told everyone, “I even got to hug him.”
After she posed for pictures and received a lot of hugs, she made sure to tell everyone that they’d be seeing her compete in the upcoming National Games.
The 2014 Special Olympic National Games will be held in New Jersey from June 14-21.
Dave Francis is a NewsOK contributor and the bowling coach for Team Oklahoma in the 2014 Special Olympics National Games.
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