Michael T. Benson/EKU President

Since its inception, Eastern Kentucky University has been blessed to participate in many partnerships that benefit all those who participate. These partnerships produce tremendous value, engender goodwill, build relationships and help to better our institution, as well as the community, region and Commonwealth.

One of the best examples of this outreach has been the opportunity to serve these past 25 years as the host site for the Special Olympics Kentucky state summer games. That's a quarter of a century of lasting memories for, of course, the athletes who have graced our grounds, but also for all the coaches, parents, officials, employees and campus and community volunteers who come away inspired to always give their very best, even if it means perseverance through adversity.

John F. Kennedy once said, "Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try." President Kennedy's own sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. And this weekend more than 1,000 Special Olympians resolve in their minds and their hearts to try as hard as they could as our university is once again honored to host the state games. All of us can be terribly proud of their amazing accomplishments.

Since 1994, EKU has been privileged to provide the facilities, lodging, food and other logistical support, but the success of the games would not be possible without the commitment of all the dedicated community and campus volunteers, many of whom answer the call year after year.

Yes, the athletes benefit tremendously from this support, but it's hard to tell who comes away from these games more encouraged and uplifted: the competitors themselves or the volunteers who are there to feed them, score their events or just offer congratulations and a hard-earned pat on the back.

In so many ways, it is only fitting that an institution of higher learning such as EKU host these young (and young-at-heart) athletes each year. After all, our highest priority at Eastern, just as it has been for well more than a century, is the success of each and every one of our students. The philosophy of Special Olympics is no different. That shared purpose is just one reason why our campus and community eagerly anticipate hosting this annual event.

Special Olympics came to Kentucky in 1972, and today nearly every county boasts an accredited program that brings out the best in its participants -- as athletes, as teammates and as individuals. Likewise, Eastern claims students and alumni from every Kentucky county and has made an indelible impact on the quality of life that Kentuckians enjoy. And just as all those who participate in any of these Games are forever changed, so are the students who place their future in our hands, as we were reminded so eloquently by all our student commencement speakers on May 10 and 11.

A native Kentuckian and former Olympian who knows a bit about competition himself, Muhammad Ali, once declared, "If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it."

Every day, our Special Olympians, our EKU family and our community prove the truth behind that great champion's words.

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