Contributed by Monica Alves, Communications Assistant

“In Special Olympics, the power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what our athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away. Instead, we see our athletes’ talents and abilities – and applaud them for all that they can do.” (

From March 14th to 21st, athletes, coaches, family members, and volunteers united together in the vibrant and modern city of Abu Dhabi, UAE to show the world what they’ve got. Over 7,000 individuals with developmental disabilities were given the platform to compete on a global stage. This annual event continues to help people with diverse abilities gain confidence in their talents and raise team spirit. Organized sports teach many valuable lessons to people of all skill levels, such as the benefits of teamwork, dedication, and commitment. They also have the unique power of inspiring more inclusive communities and fostering meaningful social connections. Although the 2019 Special Olympics World Games have now come to a close, the moving stories of personal challenges and successes have stuck with us. We’d like to share with you a few of our favourites, as captured by the popular photoblog Humans of New York.

A heartwarming display of kindness and sportsmanship from two female athletes and best friends

“We are the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia. It makes us feel wow. It’s one of the nicest moments in our life. I have to be happy and positive because I am the basketball team captain. Whenever we make a shot, I clap. I also clap if we miss it. And I clap if the other team makes it. If somebody is sad I tell them don’t be upset my sweet heart. And then I rub their shoulder. This is my teammate Dahwia, I am her friend and she is my friend. I love her so much. She loves food and we dance together. We blow each other kisses during the game. Yesterday we won. But it doesn’t matter if we lose because at the end we always dance.” (HONY)

Opening ceremony speaker, Asma shares how she broke out of social isolation through her gift of writing

“Sometimes my brain processes things difficult. I just need more time. And in school everything needs to be fast. You always have to know what’s going to happen next and it can be hard to make friends. My dad was always my biggest supporter. He’d come into my room at night and we would talk for hours. He’d tell me: ‘Your stories will make you famous one day.’ He’d show my writing to friends and family and I would get compliments. I didn’t know what to do after he died. I stayed in my room for six years. I wrote thirty-one stories. All I did was write. I only came out to eat. I wouldn’t speak to anyone. Last year my sister convinced me to visit an art studio for people with special needs. She asked me every single day, until one day she finally said: ‘I’m going to the studio and you’re coming with me.’ At first I stood in the corner. After so many years of doing nothing, it was hard for me to see people having fun. It was like a burning anger and then it came out in tears. I decided to join the group. The studio slowly opened me up to the world again. I began to make friends. I realized that so many things had happened while I was locked away. And while some things die, other things are being created. I understand now how beautiful that is. And I’ve started talking again. For the longest time my sister would beg me: ‘Please Asma, say something.’ Now she wishes I’d talk less.” (HONY)

“I’ve learned that we are the ones that choose our own fate. The path we take in life is all up to us. It’s brave to keep fighting for what we believe. But I found it takes more courage to be kind.”

How the Terminator inspired Tumi to accept himself

“It was a problem with my memory. I couldn’t remember things. Everyone else my age was moving forward, and I kept staying behind. My heart was very sore. I loved school. I wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer just like everyone else. I kept asking God: ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I tried my best. I even went to night school. But eventually my teachers said they didn’t want to waste my time. They sent me to a school to learn handwork. That’s where I learned about Special Olympics. I was an angry young man back then. I could not accept my situation. But one day I met Arnold Schwarzenegger when he came to South Africa for an event. I told him my entire story, and he said: ‘Look here, I am the Terminator, but today I am your friend. Listen to me. You are not strong in academics, but that is just one thing. It’s nothing to worry about. You are a very strong man. You can’t hate yourself for the rest of your life. It is time for you to move on.’ From that moment I began to accept myself. I now have everything in life except for academics. I work hard. I have a house. I have a family. I have a career as a soccer coach. My son attends the same school where I work—and he’s very smart. I make sure he does all his assignments. When he struggles, I bring him to his teachers so they can lift him up. I tell him: ‘Tumi, I never finished school. But God is amazing. He has made you strong where I am weak.’” (HONY)

A coach’s patience and guidance helps Monick find her strength

“We’re from the small island country of Vanuatu. I don’t know anything about sports, but nobody else wanted to coach the team. So I volunteered. Special Olympics gave me a list of sports and I chose the long jump. But two of my athletes couldn’t jump. So we moved to the javelin throw. But that was too hard to throw, so now we’re competing in the shot put competition. When I first met Monick, she’d never really left her house before. She couldn’t look me in the eye. And she was afraid of the shot put. She’d drop it on the ground every time I handed it to her. She’d hide her hands behind her back. But I invited her whole family out to train with us. Everyone participated. And that gave her confidence. On days we weren’t training, her mother gave her coconuts and rocks to throw. When it was time to compete, nobody knew if she’d be able to get on the plane. She was so scared. She was crying and clinging to me the entire flight. Once we arrived, we had to drive straight to the stadium for qualifications. Everything was so new for her. She’d never left her island before. The stadium was so big and she had to go out on the field all by herself. On her first throw she forgot everything she learned. She dropped the shot put immediately and the referee raised a red flag for disqualification. But then she looked back at us. She calmed down. She remembered being back on the island with all her family. And she threw it so far on the second throw. When the white flag was raised, we all went crazy. And she won the silver medal.” (HONY)

An incredibly supportive family leads Maryam to the gold

“This is the first time in my whole life that I got a gold medal in the World Games. I was very calm and controlled my emotions. When I left home, my mom said to focus hard on my trainings and make Egypt proud of you. Sometimes when I’m on my horse I pretend like my mom is right beside me and not all the way back in Cairo. I want to thank her so much. She does everything for me. My dad is in heaven and I want him to know that I miss him and that I love him so much. All the time I hear him saying ‘do a good job’ and ‘take care of yourself.’ I want to thank God for helping me win a gold medal. I want to thank my brother Islam for calling me yesterday and saying: ‘I hope you win the gold medal.’ That helped so much. I also want to thank my Coach Dahlia because she is a person that I love. She is almost like my little sister. Right now I feel like life is so beautiful. I feel a smile all over my face. I love everyone. And I am feeling very much like everyone loves me because I’m beautiful.” (HONY)