York Celebrates Loretta Claiborne
Dozens of fans cheered on Loretta Claiborne this past Friday as she processed down South Beaver Street with her entourage of York Special Olympians. Atop the steps of York High where she graduated from, Loretta was showered with praise from her fellow athletes, as well as elected officials like Representative Carol Hill-Evans, York Mayor Michael Helfrich, and York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler. Each of them had glowing things to say about the seven-time Special Olympic gold medalist, including Mayor Helfrich’s dedication of July 7 as Loretta Claiborne day.
The event was met with enthusiasm from all in attendance, especially the Special Olympic athletes who accompanied Loretta. Three of these athletes, Robert Miller, Charles Jones, and Mark Wilking, came from Bell’s Valley Road IDD residential home to support Loretta. Robert stated that he loved walking down the street with Loretta, and Charles described the experience as “great.” Mark, who’s a long-time friend of Loretta’s, was similarly honored to join her in representing the Special Olympics. “I’m real happy that a woman of her age is in such good shape and doing so well, too.” (Did we mention she’s coming up on her 70th birthday?)
Loretta, who had just returned from Berlin, Germany with a gold and bronze medal in Women’s Singles and Doubles Tennis, closed out the event with some inspiring words of her own. “I didn’t win these medals by myself,” Loretta addressed her crowd of fans, family, and supporters. She narrated the various challenges and obstacles she overcame as one of seven children born into poverty, herself born partially blind and with an intellectual disability. She recalled how she and her mother had to fight for her education and the chance to form a girls’ track team at York High. Above all, she expressed her gratitude for the York community and the support of those within it. “You know what they say about a community,” she said, “that it’s where people come together. It’s more than that. A community is where people come together and also look out for each other. And you are my community.”