Martin Richard, Recreational Sports, and Community Building

a selfie with sabrina and the other special olympics athletes

By: Sabrina Rose Zeghibe

Throughout the four wonderful years that I have had at the University of Miami, I have been a member in the Special Olympics Club. My motivation to engage in Special Olympics while at the University, was through my hometown experiences, specifically the Martin Richard Challengers Sports Program based out of Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Martin Richard was an eight-year-old boy who attended the Boston Marathon back in 2013, cheering people on at the finish line alongside his family. Unfortunately, for those of you who know, 2013 was the year of the Boston Marathon bombing, and Martin Richard was a victim of this crime. With this tragedy, his family made light out of the situation and created the Martin Richard Foundation. They built this foundation because of Martin’s helping and kind spirit. In an article by Irish Central, Denis Richard, Martin’s mother, spoke on the fostering of this organization in saying, “Kindness need not be displayed in random acts but with intent and purpose. Kindness is a vital part of the effort to foster a peaceful and just region, nation, and global community. Kindness supports human dignity and should be shared freely — neighbor to neighbor, block by block, until everyone is recognized as equal…”

One of the many domains of the Martin Richard Foundation is the Challengers Sports program. The aim of this program is to bring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to compete in recreational sports alongside other members of their community. I was introduced to this through a member of Martin’s family who attended my high school and created the Challengers Club. Martin’s family paired up with another family from my high school whose youngest daughter in the family has Down Syndrome. They explained that all her life she had grown up watching her older brothers play baseball and she that she, too, wanted to play. This seemingly simple request posed a challenge to her family. With the collaboration of the Richard family and a family seeking opportunity for their daughter, they were able to form this amazing organization that used the kindering spirit of Martin to bring together individuals from the Greater Boston Area with individual and developmental disabilities to provide a community in which they could thrive and engage in sports like baseball, basketball, and soccer.

I was introduced to this organization and immediately fell in love with it. Our community came together through a tragic time and made something beautiful out of it. I have played sports all my life, and they have allowed me to make some of my best friends. Recreational sports are such a great community building outlet which is why I wanted to remain involved once I entered college. At the University of Miami, I now play on a Special Olympics Unified team and compete against other schools playing alongside individuals from my community that I would have never met otherwise. It has truly been such a great experience, and it is all thanks to my hometown.

Learn more about the Martin Richard Foundation and their mission here. Fun fact: the Richard family recently opened Martin’s Park, an accessible park to all children of all abilities in Boston, MA. You can find that website here!