There are many things about a 24-hour marathon relay like Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back that leave an impression: the crazy vans, the physical demands on each team member, the beauty of the Wasatch Back course, but this year I was so touched with one aspect of the race, that I feel the need to pay tribute, individually and collectively, to the parents of children with special needs.
Operation Kids benefits all kinds of worthy charities in its partnership with Ragnar Relays. This year, we chose to benefit a health and fitness initiative of Best Buddies; a mentoring program for children with intellectual disabilities. As a result, we had a number of great children and young adults at the start and finish line who shared their infectious spirit of enthusiasm and friendship. One of these great young men was in our tent at the finish line doing his part, and I had the chance to speak with him and his mother.
The total commitment for a special-needs parent is difficult to describe. The near constant care is always coupled with the additional worry of, “who will care for my child of something happens to me?” Even when families find those great organizations like Best Buddies who can give even greater meaning and purpose to these young lives, it is the parents who must take their child to events, stay all the way through and then get them home again. I will keep names out of it because I am sure this kind mother is not looking for recognition, but as I spent time talking with this dedicated and very tired lady who loves her son, who would make any sacrifice for his well-being, I felt strongly that she, along with all parents in similar situations, deserves to be thanked.
May I just extend a tribute and thanks to the many mothers and fathers who care for special needs children on a daily basis. I realize fully that you do it because you love them, but I also realize that you do it because you must; because your children need you. You adjust your life to their needs in an effort to make their lives better, often sacrificing much of your own in the process. It is remarkable to see first-hand those people who make significant sacrifices that enable their children to experience a fuller, richer life. In turn, that sacrifice enriches people like me – who walk away with a greater appreciation for life in general.
Thank you, to all of you.