CLERMONT, Fla. — For 50 years now, Special Olympics Florida has worked to change the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
The organization, which officially turned 50 years old on February 21, will celebrate the occasion with a series of events throughout the year.
Legendary coach and ESPN College Gameday analyst Lee Corso has been involved with the Special Olympics on and off over the last 50 years.
He first got involved with the Special Olympics 54 years ago when he was the head football coach at the University of Louisville.
Corso was the honorary guest speaker for a celebratory ceremony Friday that included Ironman and Special Olympics Athlete Chris Nikic and former Major League Baseball player Johnny Damon.
Corso got choked up as he described one of his prized possessions: a plaque he was awarded with the Special Olympics Motto engraved on it: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
“Emotionally, it breaks me up because there’s nothing like it,” Corso said. “Not television or anything...nothing like it.”
Special Olympics Florida athletes Samantha Rodriguez and Pete Chiaravalle were also honored during the ceremony with the HomeTown Hero Award, which recognizes local acts of humanitarian service. Rodriguez was also recognized as the youngest runner with autism to complete the New York City Marathon.
Physician Paula Schad was given the Nancy Sawyer award for her years of work as Special Olympics Florida’s Clinical Director.
Friday’s event kicked off what will be a year-long 50th anniversary celebration.
The Special Olympics USA Games, hosted in Orlando, will start on June 5.
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