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Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Someone Believes

"She has a carefully constructed set of values and she will not budge from them. She is highly principled in ways that are more sophisticated than anyone in the family. If you ask, most of my brothers, sisters, and cousins would say they'd like to be like her," said Bobby Kennedy when speaking with Rainie about his Aunt Eunice. People with mental retardation finally had a voice. Shriver believed in them, and she would be a champion for their cause at all costs. Each summer she continued to assist in organizing camps all over the United States and in Canada where the mentally challenged could explore their physical prowess.

"In 1967 the people who ran the Chicago program decided that athletes around the city were ready to compete against one another. When they asked the Kennedy Foundation for money to help organize a city-wide competition, Mrs. Shriver decided to take the idea even further – and hold an international competition!," writes Dinn. In 1968, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, the first international competition began. The United States and Canada participated and there were over 1,000 athletes who took part. The event was so successful that the Special Olympics non-profit organization was formed that same year, to continue the development of this wonderful competition. Shriver states in Dinn's book "if those athletes had been uninterested or bored, Special Olympics probably never would have happened. You can't push people into something like this – their enthusiasm has to carry it."


1920 Born July 10 in Brookline, Massachusetts
1946 Runs Juvenile agency
1960 Eunice's brother, John F. Kennedy presides as president
1961 Works with brother John F. Kennedy to establish Presidential Committee on Mental Retardation
1962 Creates Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Awards in Mental Retardation
1962 Creates the National Institutes for Child Health and Human Development
1963 Runs summer day camp at Timberlawn for mentally retarded
1963 Brother John F. Kennedy is shot and killed
1964 Initiates five-year public information campaign by the National Advertising Council to promote acceptance of people with metal retardation
1964 Influences changes in Civil Services regulations to allow persons with mental retardation to be hired on ability rather than test scores
1968 Helps organize the first international competition for mentally challenged, calling it the Special Olympics
1968 Special Olympics becomes an official nonprofit organization
1969 Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center founded
1970 Summer Special Olympics World Games held for first time in Chicago, IL
1977 First Winter Special Olympics World Games held in Steamboat Springs, CO
1981 Creates "Community of Caring" concept for the reduction of mental retardation among babies of teenagers
1982 Establishes sixteen "Community of Caring" model centers
1999 Home burns down causing over $600,000 worth of damage as well as loss of family heirlooms
2000 Undergoes surgery to remove benign pancreatic tumor
2001 Attends Winter Special Olympics World Games held in Anchorage, AK

Awards and Accomplishments

1973 Receives Legion of Honor, Lasker Award, Humanitarian Award A.A. M.D
1973 Receives National Volunteer Service Award
1973 Receives Philadelphia Civic Ballet Award
1974 Awarded Prix de Couronne Francais
1984 Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
1993 Receives Freedom From Want Medal from Roosevelt Institute
1995 Becomes the first living American woman to be portrayed on United States legal tender: the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games silver commemorative coin
1998 Inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY
1998 Awarded Aetna Voice of Conscience® Award
1999 Receives Juanita Kreps Award
2000 Recognized at the inaugural Laureus Sports Awards with the Sport for Good Award
2000 Presented with the Noel Foundation Life award
2000 Awarded with the Greater Washington D.C. Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Humanitarian Award
2000 Receives the Phoenix Foundation for Children Champion of Children Award
2001 Awarded an Honorary Degree from the Cardinal Strich University
2002 Receives the Theodore Roosevelt Award from the National Collegiate Athletic Association

Shriver inspired many mentally challenged people to believe in themselves and to work hard to achieve things people never thought possible. "Special Olympics really brings families together". It gives parents and siblings tangible evidence of what this relative who's mentally retarded can really do," according to Doug Single. Michael Maglione's mother had never seen him ski before. She remarked in Gilbert's book, "I was terrified when I saw the size of the mountain. I was watching him come down like it was so easy, going in and out of all the poles. It was very, very thrilling." These valuable results, as well as a plethora of other attributes, have made Shriver's work so important. She truly changed the world and the way in which we conduct it when it comes to those who are mentally challenged. "In the past, parents of children with mental retardation might have felt ashamed or embarrassed. Today they can share the pride and joy of watching their children succeed," writes Gilbert. She changed the mentally challenged lives forever, not only because she petitioned for them to have recreation so that they may become active, but also to treat them as the integral part of society they are. Mike Stone, a Special Olympic competitor remarked to Dinn "Now athletes around the world all have a chance to show who they are, and what they believe in." Loretta Claiborne who competes in running for the Special Olympics shared, "Sports was and still is an outlet for me". Special Olympics is even more than sports. It helps me respect others and get respect back. And most of all it has helped me to get over so many hurdles and to say to myself, 'I am who I am, but I can be the best of who I am'."

Shriver inspired the mentally challenged to dream, and influenced them to believe that anything is possible. The athletes have taken ownership of their event. They have come up with new and exciting games in which to compete. Shriver is even impressed with what has come from Special Olympics, stating to Harrar, "the idea for the chess match came from the athletes. We have no idea how much is possible." Sue Porter, in the same article stated, "It has to change you, seeing all these amazing people doing their best." In fact, the motto of the Special Olympics is "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Those who participate in the World Games are not chosen by their abilities, but rather by picking their name out of a hat. Because of this process "the World Games are a chance for Special Olympics athletes of all abilities from all over the world to show their love of sports," as written by Tim Kennedy in his book titled Special Olympics. President George W. Bush honored Shriver at a holiday reception for the Special Olympics stating she "has made the Special Olympics her life's work. If you ever had any doubt about how much good one person can bring into the world, look no farther than this kind and gracious lady." President Bush continued to speak about the Special Olympics saying it "is an example of America at its best, sharing with the entire world a spirit of joy and kindness."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsOther SportsEunice Kennedy Shriver Biography - Growing Up A Kennedy, Presidential Influence, Someone Believes, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Still Going Strong