Three Words

Three Words

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Three Words

The only limits are, as always, those of vision.

James Broughton

As I stood outside the arena on that bitter February day, I had no idea of the warmth that I would find inside. Before entering the building to join 5,000 people, I slipped a three-word sign on my baby’s stroller. I very much wanted to connect with the people inside. I hoped that someone would read my sign and welcome us into their community.

Nine months earlier, I had given birth to my third child, Jimmy. He was a beautiful baby in every way. On his second day of life, I was told he had Down syndrome. I read everything I could get my hands on about Down syndrome and received encouragement from other parents. Jimmy was nine months old when I read that Toronto and Collingwood, Ontario, were hosting the Special Olympic World Winter Games. I wanted to go with my baby and get a peek into our future. Before leaving the house, I raced down to the basement and made a three-word sign out of white felt and red marker.

When Jimmy and I entered the arena, we took a seat alongside the boards. Within minutes, my sign was being noticed. Parents squeezed my hand and told me of the challenges and unbelievable joys I would know. Athletes came over to meet my baby and wish him luck. Volunteers who travelled thousands of miles to be a part of the games attached their country’s pins to the little square of felt. It was also noticed by a crew member from The Sports Network (TSN), and by Frank Hayden, the founder of the Special Olympics movement worldwide.

It was Frank Hayden who put my little, three-word sign into a context I never imagined. He told the Canadian Parliament and the news media that it was the “defining moment” of the games and of his thirty-year career as a sports scientist. He said, “Thirty years ago, even ten years ago, would a mother have walked into a public place and proudly announced that her child had a mental disability? She was looking toward the future, not with fear and trepidation, but with great expectations.”

Last July I received a beautiful letter from an artist in Ottawa. He had been commissioned to create a logo for the ninth Special Olympic Canadian Summer Games in Sudbury, Ontario. Bernard Poulin wrote, “You and your child have been my creative muses. The ‘challenge sign’ on your baby’s chest said it all.” Poulin created a circular logo that he says “reminds us of the hearts and souls of the parents who fuel the dreams of the athletes, who are supported and encouraged by the organisation.” Poulin added, “It exists because in a crowd at the Centennial Arena in North York, Ontario, a proud mother and a beautiful child challenged the world with their daring.”

The impact of the three words on that makeshift sign continues to amaze me. It said only, “Future Special Olympian.”

Jo-Ann Hartford Jaques
Etobicoke, Ontario

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