Triumph music director’s songs will be featured at Special Olympic games

Published 12:04 am Saturday, July 17, 2010

When the Special Olympics opening ceremonies get underway Sunday in Lincoln, Neb., a Vicksburg songwriter will be listening closely to the performances of two special songs.

His own.

Landy Maughon, the worship and music leader at Triumph Church, said the selection of his songs, “We Raise This Flag” and “We Will Carry the Torch,” on which his wife, Stephanie, collaborated, is a “huge honor.”

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“I was so pleased,” Maughon said of hearing the final, orchestrated arrangements of the songs he’d submitted on relatively stripped-down demos. “As a songwriter this is such a neat moment.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who in 1962 held a camp in her own backyard to recognize and promote the athletic abilities of the intellectually handicapped, is credited as the founder of the Special Olympics movement.

From that first camp for just 35 young athletes, the Special Olympics has grown to include millions of people around the world.

Shriver died Aug. 11, and Maughon’s song, “We Will Carry the Torch” was written specifically for a section of the program dedicated to her. Its lyrics promise to “keep the flame alive” that she began with a spark created by “one dream.”

“The Special Olympics people asked for a song with that title,” he said. “They wanted a song that would go along with the tribute.”

Shriver’s work was inspired in large part by the struggles of her older sister Rosemary, and the inspiration for Landy and Stephanie Maughon was also close at hand.

The couple has four children: Landon, 6, Jake, 5, Charlie, 3, and Eliza, 3 months. Jake, diagnosed with developmental delays, is enrolled in special needs classes and activities.

“It hits close to home,” Maughon said. “He deals with challenges now and will possibly continue to deal with them in the future.”

To watch what Jake goes through makes it especially meaningful to have his work be part of the Special Olympics, he said. “The fact that there is going to be enough in their lives screaming negativity, teaching them ‘no way, you can’t,’ it’s so important to be involved in something that screams ‘yes,’ that screams ‘hope.’ It’s incredible.”

During Sunday’s tribute to Shriver, former top-ten “American Idol” contestant Michael Sarver will sing “We Will Carry the Torch.”

Maughon said his second song, “We Raise This Flag” will become a permanent part of the games, which are held every four years. Grammy Award winner and Gospel Music Hall of Famer Sandy Patti will perform it Sunday, and LaShell Griffin, winner of the 2004 Oprah Winfrey Pop Star Challenge, will sing it Friday at the closing ceremonies.

Maughon, 37, was born in Birmingham, Ala., the son of a Pentecostal minister, and grew up in Jackson. He and Stephanie, a native of Idaho, married in 1997 after she visited her aunt, who was a member of Landy’s church at the time. Stephanie’s aunt predicted their marriage.

“Four kids later, here we are,” he said with a laugh.

The couple moved to Vicksburg soon after he began working at Triumph in 2001 and have remained, except for a brief period in Idaho.

Maughon submitted his Special Olympics songs to the production company staging the opening ceremonies at the request of producer/arranger J. Daniel Smith, with whom Maughon had previously collaborated.

“The reclusive side of me loves songwriting,” he said, “but I have to admit I also love the interaction with people and the choir that leading worship gives me.”

More than 19,000 athletes, their families and friends, coaches and officials are expected to take part in this week’s Special Olympics.

“Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love,” Shriver once said.

Maughon put it this way: “I really believe that every person has a destiny in their life, a reason and purpose, whether you believe it’s divinely given or not.”

“Once you’ve seen desire and destiny collide,” his song says, “you’ll do whatever it would take to keep the flame alive.”