Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2012

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and 1968 special olympics

July 20, 1968: Eunice Kennedy Shriver launches the Special Olympic games. Eunice was the sister of John, Edward (Ted), and Robert Kennedy. Their sister, Rosemary, was severely and permanently intellectually impaired after a lobotomy. Eunice was married to Robert Shriver, a US Ambassador to France and founder of the Peace Corps. Their daughter, Maria, was married to then-governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The couple divorced in 2011; they have four children.

In 1962 Eunice started a day camp for intellectually impaired children. Camp Shriver was located at her home in Potomac, Maryland. The goal was to provide a safe environment for children to participate in physical activities as well as to compete with their peers. Camp Shriver was sponsored by the Kennedy Foundation where she was the Executive Vice President. The Foundation also gave grants to universities, recreation departments, and community centers to hold similar events. Anne McGlone Burke was a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District. She wanted to create a one-time event for an Olympic-style competition for people with special needs. She approached Shriver and was given a grant for $25,000.

The first Special Olympics was held at Soldier Field in Chicago. There were attendees from 26 US states and Canada. The children competed in a variety of track and field events as well as in swimming activities. The underclasses have always had to fight for permission to be included in the world at large. Women were kept from participating in Olympic track and field competitions until 1928. African-Americans were excluded from major sport leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Everyone wants to be seen as a valuable person with full rights to participate. Shriver took the one-time event from Soldier Field and turned it into an annual event and the Special Olympics were born.

The first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977. Steamboat Springs, Colorado was the hosting city. In 1988 the Special Olympics were recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is the only sport organization authorized by the IOC to use the term “Olympics” in the title. In 2003, the Summer Games were held outside the US for the first time when Dublin, Ireland hosted them. On October 30, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the “Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act” into law. Public Law 108-406 provides funding for the games.

There’s not much of anything he hasn’t tried. He can’t read or write, but he sure does enjoy his sports. Keeping him in Special Olympics is part of his life. It’s such a good outlet for kids like this. – Carol Barth

The Special Olympics is for anyone ages 8 to 99 and it’s not too late for them to turn in their entry form. – Connie Thomason

Volunteers are the backbone of Special Olympics. There are a variety of ways you can help out. – Mike Sutton

When you coach different sports, you have to deal with athletes and parents. But with the Special Olympics, these kids are just glad to be out here and play sports. – Freddie Taylor

Also on this day:

One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on July 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

    In a phone call Eunice Kennedy said to me about her brother John F. Kennedy: “He is mentally impaired. Born brainless”. THAT is competition.

  2. Sherry said, on July 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    So you actually have something in common with JFK, Jr., Bobby Dias! Wow, I AM impressed!

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