Loretta Claiborne is the most accomplished Special Olympics athlete of all time. Loretta was raised by a single mother, born partially blind, with an intellectual disability, and clubbed feet. This future marathon champion was unable to walk until the age of four and learned to talk at seven. Loretta’s strong mother had the courage, strength, and fortitude to refuse institutionalization for her daughter.
We learn of early teachers, an uncle teaching her to read the paper and count money. Janet Mc Farland, an early mentor who introduced Loretta to the newly formed Special Olympics, setting her on a path to become the most celebrated Special Olympics athlete in history with ten medals over six Special Olympics World Games. She has run 26 marathons, placing in the top 100 in the Boston Marathon twice, and finished in the top 25 women overall in the Pittsburgh Marathon.
This global speaker was awarded the Arthur Ashe ESPY Courage Award in 1996, presented to her by Denzel Washington. This tireless warrior for the intellectually challenged was the first Special Olympics athlete elected to the Special Olympics Board of Directors. Loretta’s life was the subject of an ABC-TV made-for-Disney movie, The Loretta Claiborne Story. Loretta is represented in the historic portrait at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, of her friend and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
As a result of this change agent’s advocacy, those with intellectual disabilities are living longer, more rewarding, and productive lives. The Special Olympics is now in 200 countries, with five million participating athletes, providing resources for those once removed from society and marginalized.
It was a gift to spend time with Loretta, Chief Inspirational Officer of the Special Olympics. We welcome her to this episode of Intrinsic Drive™.
Intrinsic Drive™ is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton. Special thanks to Andrew Hollingworth, our sound engineer and technical editor. For more information on this and other episodes visit us at www.whartonhealth.com/intrinsicdrive. Follow us on socials (links below) including Instagram @intrinsicdrivelive