Giving with Love: Bonnie Carr

As Bonnie Carr laced up her skates for another Holiday on Ice International performance in 1974, she felt a voice whisper to her: it’s time to take a break. A professional skater since 1961, Bonnie had given her heart to hundreds of audiences across the country for more than 13 years.

She contemplated leaving, but decided she actually wasn’t ready to step down – and then suddenly her back went out, paralyzing her for several weeks. Another whisper.

As Bonnie’s back recovered, the city of Chicago reached out to ask if she would be interested in serving as the skating director of the new William McFetridge Sports Center. Yet another whisper.

“I didn’t really want to stay in Chicago at the time, so I said I would take the position if they would let me start a program for the intellectually disabled, hearing impaired and blind. I also asked that I be allowed to teach interested skaters for free if they didn’t have the means to pay. I was certain they weren’t going to offer me the job,” she said laughing.

But they did; that whisper she’d initially ignored pushed Bonnie into the world of Special Olympics and she’s felt at home ever since.

When Bonnie transitioned into her new role, the Chicago Special Olympics program didn’t offer ice skating as a sport so she created a program and hundreds of athletes – the Ice Breakers – joined her each week. At her first meet, she recalls Eunice Kennedy Shriver joining her on the ice.

“There she was in her full length fur coat, sitting on the floor lacing up an athlete’s skates,” she said. “She truly embodied what humans were created to be.”

Bonnie spent 10 years in Chicago but in 1990, moved to Virginia, where she continued to be involved in Special Olympics skating for another 10 years. She even brought her 3 children into the fold, making it a true family affair.

I couldn’t have taught my children to navigate the storms of life without Special Olympics.

Bonnie hung up her coaching skates in 2001, but that hasn’t kept her from giving back – today, she’s a donor, supporting athletes across Virginia as they go for gold, on and off the ice.

“By helping them, you’re helping other people see the way humanity should be,” she said. “Special Olympics athletes show us what life and love are all about. They will change you. They will change the way you give, the way you take, who you are. Being involved in Special Olympics is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.”

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