How one story became 25 – Going Over the Edge for Special Olympics Virginia

“We are fools for the sake of Christ…” (1 Corinthians 4:10)

Why do I try to love and support folks with intellectual disabilities? It is my family legacy.

Elvira, Roy, Lou (my father) and Theresa Florio (c. 1938)

Elvira, Roy, Lou (my father) and Theresa Florio (c. 1938)

In the early 1930s, my aunt, Theresa, was born with an intellectual disability. My grandmother told me before her death that her family and friends urged that my aunt be institutionalized – a very common practice at the time. My grandmother and grandfather refused. Instead of a life hidden away, Aunt Theresa received an education and learned necessary skills for a happy, productive life among her loving family. As an adult, she worked and eventually lived semi-independently.

Today as a pastor, I am thankful that our faith community has supported Hanover Adult Center’s Linking Lives Program as they join us weekly for our Messiah Lutheran School chapel program. In addition, we have been actively supporting the formation of a L’Arche community in Richmond, along with Lutheran Family Services’ programs, and others. Recently, Council has even agreed to become a Friends for Life Congregation, a new cooperative effort of congregations in Hanover County facilitating the intentional engagement of those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

This month, we have the opportunity to build upon these efforts by supporting Special Olympics Virginia. This organization provides much more than sporting events. It is a wonderful community helping people be their best. It provides education, life skills training, fellowship and more. Please prayerfully consider supporting our council president, Kevin Hendrickson, and the rest of our Virginia Synod team (“Fools for Christ”) for Over the Edge Virginia 2014. During the event, people show solidarity with Special Olympians by being “brave enough” to rappel twenty-five stories off of the Sun Trust Building in Richmond, Virginia. You can do so through this secure site:

Designated cash/check donations as part of your Sunday offering at Messiah or through the mail are also welcomed with much thanksgiving. A donation to any member of the team is a donation for all, and it helps thousands of Special Olympians throughout Virginia.

Those participating are taking this unusual, giant leap of faith out of love for their neighbors. Please join them in this step by offering your support. If you wish to root them on in person, come by the Sun Trust Center (919 East Main Street) on Friday, October 17th at 2:30 pm.

Pastor Lou

This is a revised, expanded version of an earlier post created for submission to Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (October 2014).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.  

© 2014 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

Going "over the Edge" in 2012

Going “Over the Edge” in 2012

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