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Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Still Going Strong

Although Shriver has experienced some set backs due to illness, she still makes an appearance at a variety of events that support the Special Olympics and advocates for the mentally challenged. Shriver told a Toronto reporter "I feel a sense of gratitude, a sense of admiration. I am very energized by them." That explains how she was able to attend the games of 2001 in Alaska, after suffering an acute infection following a surgery she had to remove a benign pancreatic tumor. Although Tim Kennedy, who organized the event, encouraged her to take it easy, she wouldn't miss it for the world. Although Shriver hates public speaking, she knows that it is necessary to inspire the athletes and their families as well as educate the public on the topic of mental retardation.

Related Biography: Founder and President of Best Buddies Anthony Shriver

Anthony is the youngest of Shriver's five children, and Eunice passed on many of her principles to her son. "His mother became his role model," stated Kevin Gray for Miami. People would point and whisper at his Aunt Rosemary when he and his mother would take her out. "It never fazed her. Even when people were staring, she didn't care," said Anthony in the same article. When he was at Georgetown University he noticed his fellow students wasting their spare time, when they could be out making a difference. He organized a group called Best Buddies, where he paired college students with a mentally challenged person. "His goal is to integrate the mentally disabled into mainstream society through one-on-one friendships with others," according to Gray. Over time news of this organization spread throughout the country, and young Anthony would receive incessant calls asking for information on how to set up a program at their school. Shortly after graduating, what was a hobby became his career, as he now manages over "6,500 participants in 172 chapter of the Best Buddies programs around the world," cited Gray. George Zitnay of the National Head Injury Foundation stated, "People with mental retardation have been isolated for too long. Best Buddies addresses the need for valued friendship." Gray concluded that the Shriver family has created a name for themselves for "addressing the needs of the retarded."

Hearts of Gold: A Celebration of Special Olympics and Its Heroes

In the category of pure skill, there is Robert Vasquez. The twelve-year-old from Virginia, USA competed in the top level of gymnastics at the 1995 World Games. In his best event, the rings, Bobby earned a gold medal. Bobby also won four silvers: in the floor exercise, vault, pommel horse, and all-around; one bronze, in the parallel bars; and a fourth place in the high bars.

Bobby's coach Shane Revill, who also coaches non-Special Olympics athletes, considers Bobby's skill and his flexibility in a league with many regular gymnasts. The biggest obstacle to Bobby's success is his frustration when he can't do a move or when things don't go his way. "We had trouble on the first day of competition, when we got a score we didn't agree with," said Shane. "I thought Bobby would be down for the rest of the week. But the next day, he went on his own and apologized to the officials for his poor sportsmanship. Then the group he was competing with came together, almost like a team, instead of athletes competing against each other. High fives, great attitudes – it ended up being the meet of everyone's lives! Bobby ate it up and did a flawless routine on the rings to win the gold."

Source: Dinn, Sheila. Hearts of Gold: A Celebration of Special Olympics and Its Heroes. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press, Inc., 1996: 58-59.

"With enormous conviction and unrelenting effort, Eunice Kennedy Shriver has labored on behalf of America's least powerful, those with mental retardation "Her decency and goodness have touched the lives of many," stated President Ronald Reagan when awarding Shriver with the Presidential Medal of Honor. Shriver has received many awards for all her diligent work, but she is the last person to brag about it. She humbly shrugs off any attempts to glorify her work. Michelle Green of People exhorts Shriver saying "She had wooed, coaxed and, sometimes, strong-armed an entire generation of coaches, donors, and volunteers. Along the way she had convinced skeptics that the retarded, once treated as frail specimens (if not ignored altogether), could blossom on the playing field." She paved the way for the mentally challenged to become a normal, working part of society. "Simply not accepting the limitations that the world may put on people with disabilities – that is success," stated Shriver in the foreword for Dinn's book. Shriver is not an openly emotional person, but is moved to tears of joy at most events, seeing how far these athletes have come. Rainie and Hetter sum it up stating "the changes wrought by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential. With a lot of help for her very powerful brother Jack and inspiration from her powerless sister Rosemary, Eunice Shriver helped move the nation for good and for all."

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