Loretta Claiborne was the middle of seven children in a poor, single-parent family. Born partially blind and mildly retarded,
she was unable to walk or talk until age 4. Eventually, though, she began to run. And before she knew it, she had crossed
the finish line of 25 marathons, twice placing among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon. She's carried the torch in
the International Special Olympics, has won medals in dozens of its events, and also holds the current women's record in her age group for the 5000 meters at 17 minutes.
Today, Claiborne is a celebrated athlete who was honored in 1996 with ESPN's ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.
Her life is recounted in Walt Disney Productions The Loretta Claiborne Story (originally broadcast on ABC-TV and now on videocassette) and in the biography In Her Stride published by WorldScapes. Considering all of Claiborne's achievements, these are just small steps in her life's mission
to show that persons with mental and physical disabilities are equal to those without.
"I figured if my story could change a person's mind about another person, or especially a child's mind about
another child, then it was the right thing to do," Claiborne says. Now in her early fifties, the athlete recalls a time
when children taunted her for being different and how the taunting turned her into an angry young woman who was expelled from
high school and fired from a job.
Although she loved to run and used her speed and strength to protect herself in fights against cruel classmates,
she credits the Special Olympics with helping her realize that her tremendous athletic talent could be used to do good.
Claiborne was first introduced to Special Olympics by social worker Janet McFarland (played by Emmy Award-winner
Camryn Manheim in the movie). She credits McFarland as well as her family, community, educators, Special Olympics founder
Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her own strong spirituality with giving her the confidence necessary to become a world-class runner.
"If it weren't for sports, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I was very angry before and sports was the
arena that turned that around for me," Claiborne says. "I got support from family, community and God -- he is the strength
of all and can make anything possible." The Loretta Claiborne Story not only outlines Claiborne's personal and
spiritual journey, but it shows her joyful, sometimes mischievous personality.