Taken from myspace - spearheadvibrations (Feb 13, 2009)
SPECIAL OLYMPICS INSPIRATION! by Michael Franti
It was a huge honor and fantastic fun to play at the 2009 Special Olympic Winter Games in Sun Valley, Idaho. I want to give a big shout out to all the athletes, organizers and volunteers who have continued this journey dedicated to making all people feel special and included. It was a huge community effort and I was particularly moved by receiving a hand knitted blue and white scarf (the Special Olympic colors) from a fan at the show in Boise. Organizers of the event had called to the people of Idaho to make 5000 scarves for the athletes and their families by the time the opening ceremonies began they had received 55,000!!!
When I put it on the next morning I felt the stitching with my fingertips and thought wow someone stayed up late in the night, like my mother did when I was a kid, stitching this scarf for a complete stranger and now those hours are wrapped around my neck (and voice) keeping me warm.
Meeting the athletes, in the athlete village was definitely the highlight for me. Hearing the stories of the competitors from languages from all over the world, seeing their smiles and the light of their medals shining off their faces as they posed for the cameras. I met an Israeli woman named Tali who is the mother of four children. She was told from birth her youngest daughter would never walk, but 21 years later, not only is she walking, but also she skis, and plays basketball and volleyball at Special Olympics! Tali taught us all an impromptu version of a song and dance she wrote called "I know I can" and soon we had a circle of people doing it in the athlete’s village.
The show itself was outrageously cold and my thumb is still numb from the bit of frostbite it received, but the spirits were so high and the crowd rocked so hard, (seems the cold and music are good unifiers). We were joined on stage by young kids, athletes and a high school senior named Sam who performed a rap about how Special Olympics had affected his life. The show was opened by Jimmy and Donnie Demers who are an amazing piano and vocal duo (check em out online.)
One of the organizers, Jim Grossman, whose sister has been a Special Olympics athlete for 30 years, said something that will always stick with me, “as able bodied people we live in such a narrow bandwidth, there is no one "right way" to ski, ride a snowboard, skate or play hockey, there are as many ways as there are people who try. The more we learn to experience those ways and help others to do it for themselves, the more powerful we become!"
Special Olympics embody the ideas of diversity and inclusion that have always been the messages I strive for in my songs. I could not be more grateful to have had the opportunity to play at the games.
I want to say thanks to Chip Fisher for inspiring me to get involved and who along with the Grossman's undertook the monumental task of bringing the games to Idaho, having me and encouraging everyone to get involved with Special Olympics Idaho and to Sandy Figge who had us all over to her grand barn for a late night of reminiscing the day.
To all the athletes and fans, way to ROCK!!!
Peace, Michael Franti