I attended the Greater Washington Sports Alliance’s annual fund-raising event, the “Sneaker Ball,” on Tuesday night at the National Building Museum in downtown DC. I was a charter board member of GWSA (for the first four years) and have attended every Sneaker Ball since its’ inception earlier this decade. Last night’s event was remarkable and memorable, as I will explain in a moment.
This Sneaker Ball event has turned into one of DC’s best annual events — with approximately 1,000 people attending — it’s a mixture of business leaders, politicians, athletes, philanthropists, etc. Athletes from the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, Mystics, DC United, Freedom, Bayhawks, etc all were in attendance, including the world’s greatest hockey player, Alexander Ovechkin as well as recently inducted NFL Hall-of-Famer, Darrell Green (one of the city’s all-time heroes).
Each year, a couple of DC’s sports stars are inducted into the “Washington, DC Hall of Champions.” Inductees over the last few years include: Abe Pollin, Darrell Green, Gary Williams, John Thompson, Ted Leonsis, Morgan Wooten, Dominique Dawes, Art Monk, Brian Mitchell, Brig Owens, etc.
My personal highlight over the years was when I was asked by my mentor, Ted Leonsis, to introduce him during his induction to the Hall of Champions in 2006. It was a great honor and I was so proud to watch him being inducted alongside two DC sports institutions — Coach Morgan Wooten and James Brown.
But, highlight #2 just occurred last night. The GWSA board made a phenomenal selection when they inducted Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver to the Hall of Champions. They could not have made a better choice – it was perfect. Why? Because she was the founder of the Special Olympics – and she dedicated four decades of her life to help thousands and thousands of Special Olympics athletes and their families. She talked the talk, but she certainly walked the walk. Mrs. Shriver was an extraordinary person and it’s great to see her being honored with the other legendary DC sports figures.
The other brilliant move was who they had deliver her acceptance speech. The speech was delivered by a Special Olympian who has Down’s Syndrome. Speaking from experience, it’s not easy to get up on the stage to address an audience of 900 – 1,000 people. Many people can tell you how nerve-wracking that experience can be. Yes, this terrific young man simply brought the house down with his speech. Tears were flowing out of my eyes … I didn’t care if others saw me crying … I know many others had tears flowing, too. This Special Olympian deserves a gold medal for his outstanding delivery of the speech — it was emotional and heart-felt. He deservedly received a standing ovation from the huge crowd.
Many of us “give back,” volunteer, mentor, donate time and / or money, teach, etc. Some people wonder what drives us? Why do we spend so much time and energy to help others? Because it’s the right thing to do. And, the acceptance speech by the Special Olympian clearly reinforces why it’s important to give back and to help others. Thank you, Mrs. Shriver, for showing us the way through your lifetime commitment to helping others. You have truly impacted thousands and thousands of families in such a positive way … and your hard work and dedication will be carried on for a long, long time. We will not let you down. God Bless.