The donation, announced July 14 in Los Angeles, will help cover on-the-ground costs for the 7,000 participants expected to compete in the games.
The contribution covers more than 8 percent of the Special Olympics’ projected $17 million budget for the 2015 games. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, the head of the fraternal organization, told Catholic News Service that the donation would cover the costs of all Americans and Canadians expected to participate.
In tandem with the Knights’ announcement, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles outlined the archdiocese’s spiritual support the athletes attending the games.
Mass will be celebrated daily, but efforts will also be made to open up Los Angeles Catholics’ homes to athletes and coaches.
“A big part of Special Olympics is athletes’ interaction with the community around the sponsoring city,” Anderson said. “That’s going to be very important.”
The Knights’ affiliation with a sponsorship of Special Olympics dates back to 1968, the year of the very first Special Olympics games, conducted at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Anderson told CNS that Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps director under President John Kennedy and Job Corps director under President Lyndon Johnson, “was a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus. So when Eunice (Kennedy Shriver) and Sarge started Special Olympics, it was just natural for his brother Knights to rally around and help out.”
He added, “I remember having the opportunity to meet with Sarge in Dublin for first the Special Olympics international games that were held outside the U.S. That was a special occasion to be with him. That was in 2003.”
As large as the Knights’ gift is to Special Olympics, it is dwarfed by the contributions made by members of the Knights at the state and local levels.
“The $1.4 million comes from our international headquarters, but last year, for example, at the local level we donated $3.6 million to Special Olympics,” Anderson said. “And 130,000 of our members volunteer at the different Special Olympics games. So we are very much involved. … Since 1968 the big involvement has been at the local level.”
Anderson added, “Getting there, working with the athletes, seeing what it means to them, seeing what it means to their families, you learn the lesson: It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”
Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.