Posted on September 8, 2023
“Let me win.
If I cannot win,
Let me be brave in the attempt.”
Sounds like an election day prayer, doesn’t it?
It’s not. It’s the Special Olympics Athlete oath, one I know well. It was one of the first things I moved into my legislative office, and a mantra more folks should embody.
I had the chance to rappel 30 plus stories down Mohegan Sun to raise money for a great cause. Well outside my comfort zone, but it was an organization I have been involved with even longer than my tenure in public service. When they asked me to jump off a building to raise money, I said yes. (Admittedly, they were very careful to say safely rappel with a top-notch team of experts.)
Service to our communities is what being a public servant is all about. When friends and colleagues asked what I was doing this summer, I mentioned I was raising money for the Over the Edge event. They asked 2 questions. 1-Had a truly lost my mind? 2-How could they help to support the organization? Nobody cared about party affiliation, or how I voted on a bill that was a kitchen sink of confusing language and controversial topics. They respected the objective -trying to make a difference in the lives of people you may never meet. (Or, just wanted to see me go down the side of the building, likely a 50/50 split.) My guests for the day (dubbed Responsible Adults on the landing pad) were dear friends from across the state. My cheering squad included Deputy Speaker Michelle Cook (D-65) and House Republican Leader Vin Candelora (R-86). Republicans and Democrats – yet the 3 of us all subscribe to the same goal -making Connecticut a better place.
Twenty years ago, I had the chance to represent Special Olympics in Ireland at the World Games as a unified player on the coed soccer team. (I did wear a 2003 Team pin for luck on my way down the building.) Today, Special Olympics serves thousands of athletes across our state. The experiences and relationships made while volunteering during those games was only the beginning. Athletes, coaches, volunteers, local first responders continue to come together to support inclusion and opportunities.
The Special Olympics’ Senior Director, Jackie Turro, quickly became a friend I’ve had the chance to volunteer with for about 15 years. Jackie convinced me to volunteer for this year’s Over the Edge event. Thousands of athletes participate in Connecticut, with more than 240 Unified sports programs across the state. I’m proud to say unified sports are offered in my district, both in Cromwell and Portland. This organization embodies what public service should-athletes from across the state, each with different abilities, all striving to do their best.
There are many worthwhile causes in Connecticut and many elected officials do a lot of positive things when no one is looking. We have a tremendous opportunity to do so much good when we work together. Perhaps a little less of the one-liners, snarky comments, intentionally misleading mailers, and gotcha bill titles? Perhaps a little more of working together, multiplying our efforts, and raising the bar in Connecticut?
I strapped on a harness and helmet, literally stepped off the edge of a very tall building and took a leap of faith. Well outside my comfort zone, I make the solitary climb down Sky Tower. The view was amazing (I did look down before I started and as I descended), as was the thought that friends and strangers were coming together to make a positive impact.
As we go into election season, I challenge everyone to do a little bit more to improve Connecticut. It’s amazing what we can do when we work together and get outside our comfort zones.
Christie M. Carpino, State Representative 32nd District