April 07, 2012 | Updated: January 29, 2019

By Ramonica Jones

Danny Labadie was born in 1956 on the same day Americans celebrate life and liberty.   No one knew his entire existence would be a celebration of those same gifts, as well as a perfect example of tolerance, acceptance and triumph.  Ron Cornett of Houston has chosen to honor the life of his cousin Danny by designating his membership to the Special Olympics Texas Olympus Society as a tribute to his memory. 

Danny was a Special Olympics athlete with Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, Wisconsin and competed in bowling, athletics (track and field), basketball and softball with the delegation for more than 20 years.  “Danny has touched so many lives and was a true blessing sent into our family,” said Cornett.  “About a year ago, God called Danny home.   Loving and knowing Danny has enriched our lives forever.”  His angelic life on Earth was short; however, his impact on his family, friends, teammates, and even rivals, is much longer lasting.     

“Our awareness/understanding of Down Syndrome children came from having him as a huge part of our family,” explained Cornett.

That understanding of intellectual disabilities compelled the family to get involved in the movement and spread the word about Special Olympics. 

“Special Olympics shares a genuine care and love, as I do, for those with intellectual disabilities,” Cornett said. “I wish I had the mental and physical strength to help more, but instead, I donate monetarily. Special Olympics is one of the better charitable organizations in that they have very little administrative costs. The majority of the money goes for the cause. That is important to me.”

That’s just one reason Cornett joined the Olympus Society – a unique circle of supporters that shares one goal: to ensure the growth of Special Olympics’ mission, today and tomorrow, through personal, multi-year contributions.  Sharing his cousin’s lesson of courage, unwavering spirit and determination to live a quality life, despite his disability and battle with dementia, is also a tribute from Cornett to his hero.

“I think people like Danny are angels here on Earth,” said Cornett. “I never heard a harsh word come from his mouth. He was always happy [and] showed his love for every family member. I wish I could have been as good a person as Danny. I thank God for sharing him with us.”

It’s an experience that Cornett would wish on anyone.

“If anyone had a piece of happiness missing within them I would suggest getting involved with Special Olympics or just attend an event.  Just seeing their smiles can bring a tear to your eye. I admire the people of Special Olympics [who] dedicate their time for the happiness of these kids.”

He said it’s easy to see the treasures that people with intellectual disabilities have to offer the world; all you have to do is take time to watch, and listen.

For more information on making a charitable gift in honor of a loved one, please contact Janet Smith (jsmith@sotx.org) at 817.332.3433 or Mary Davison (mdavison@sotx.org) at 512.491.2942.