Best Buddies Connecticut Kicks Off 25th Anniversary By Honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver
On Saturday September 26, students from all over the state gathered bright and early at Wesleyan University to participate in Local Leadership Training Day, known to our students as LLTD. But September 26 was also known by another name this year, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day. EKS Day is a day of remembrance and celebration of Mrs. Shriver’s contributions to the disabilities community, including founding Special Olympics in 1968. Best Buddies shares a special connection to Eunice Kennedy Shriver through her son, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder of the organization.
As Best Buddies Connecticut kicks off our 25th year with the most enthusiastic group of student leaders to date, we brought in Loretta Claiborne, a well-known runner from the Special Olympics and special friend of Mrs. Shriver. Loretta is the middle child of a seven-children, one-parent family from York, Pennsylvania. She was born partially blind and with an intellectual disability, unable to speak or walk until the age of 4. Growing up, Loretta was often bullied and developed anger issues that lead to her expulsion from high school.
Loretta found running to be her outlet, eventually joining Special Olympics upon the recommendation of her social worker, Janet McFarland. Her success as a Special Olympics athlete was recognized by ESPN when she took home the ESPY Athur Ashe Courage Award in 1996. The film The Loretta Claiborne Story was produced in 2000, based on her true story. Loretta is now travels and gives speeches to those lucky enough to hear her, and yes, she still runs every day. She credits her achievements to Janet, her family, the community, educators, and the Special Olympics Founder herself, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
With over 120 student leaders present, both with and without disabilities, Loretta offered an insight into overcoming adversity and teamwork, two major themes for this programmatic year. Her story has touched the lives of so many, and brought hope and courage to the new student leaders of BBCT 2015-16 programmatic year.