For over three decades, Danny Kingsley has worked with the Special Olympics. Over the past weekend, he was able to organize a powerlifting meet at the DeSoto Athletic Club where he works.
Kingsley said the location was convenient for both the Mississippi and Tennessee chapters of Special Olympics, so they were able to come together for a dual meet.
“We’ve been doing powerlifting in the Special Olympics for years, and we’ve done it at several different places,” Kingsley said. “I work at the DAC as the maintenance director, so I asked my boss if we could host the event here. Tennessee’s director and Mississippi’s director decided to do a dual meet, so both areas were able to compete at the event.”
Kingsley’s brother has Down Syndrome, and he has been a part of Special Olympics for the past 36 years.
“It was a powerlifting meet with bench press and deadlift,” Kingsley said. “I have an older brother with Down Syndrome. I’ve been involved with the Special Olympics since 1987, and I started the powerlifting program in Memphis.”
Special Olympics allows those with intellectual disabilities to fairly compete against each other in sporting activities that they otherwise would not be able to participate in.
“Special Olympics for adults and children with intellectual disabilities,” Kingsley said. “It gives them an outlet and allows them to participate in sports. It was created in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver because she had a sister with an intellectual disability. She wanted to create the opportunity for those people to be able to participate in sports and it would be fair for them.”
Kingsley said the organization has grown rapidly over the last several years, and it has even gone worldwide now.
“It’s just grown and grown over the years from local competitions to regional competitions to national competitions to world competitions, so it’s all over the world now,” Kingsley said.
Kingsley said he has seen how the Special Olympics can positively affect participant’s lives firsthand.
“There’s certain things that those with disabilities can’t connect with in life, but a sport may bring them out and help them connect,” Kingsley said. “We had a young man in our program years ago, and his mother brought him to a program that my mother was leading called Fitness Club. At first, he wouldn’t come into the weight room. He walked by the window one day and looked in the weight room, and told his mom that he wanted to try it. He wasn’t very verbal and we didn’t know if he would like it or not, and it ended up changing his life.”
The Special Olympics has several different sports to choose from. Kingsley said he’s always willing to let those that are interested try powerlifting, but if they don’t like it, there’s always something else for them to try.
“I always tell the parents that they might not be able to do it, but they might so it’s always worth a try,” Kingsley said.
Kingsley said working with the Special Olympics is special to him because he’s able to show participants that they can do what they want to do.
“Helping out with Special Olympics over the years has allowed me to see people’s lives changed,” Kingsley said. “To see a smile on someone’s face when they’re able to do something they enjoy when they know they can't compete in normal sports, that’s what it’s all about. As a brother and a volunteer, that’s what makes it mean so much to me.”
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