At the first Special Olympics International Summer Games in 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver got down on the field during warm-ups. Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, also loved being a coach. A few minutes after this picture was taken, she put on her bathing suit — and helped athletes and coaches at the aquatics events.
From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities to a global movement, Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes for 48 years.
It all began in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities (ID) were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action.
Soon, her vision began to take shape, as she held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities – and not dwell on what they could not do.
Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver continued her pioneering work — both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for justice eventually grew into the Special Olympics movement.
In 1968, Mrs. Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, in the belief that the lessons these athletes learned through sports would translate into new competence and success in school, in the workplace and in the community. Above all, Mrs. Shriver wanted the families and neighbors of people with intellectual disabilities to see what these individuals could accomplish, to take pride in their efforts and to rejoice in their victories.
Today, Special Olympics Inc. is the world’s largest provider of fitness training, education and athletic competition — coupled with social, life and leadership skill development opportunities — for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Rhode Island, an accredited program of Special Olympics Inc., was founded in 1972 and is the largest sports program in Rhode Island for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics is a worldwide movement of more than 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries, where one can act locally, but make a global impact. With competitions around the world, daily training sessions and family leaders, athlete leaders and volunteers extending our message every day, Special Olympics is no longer just an event. We are a movement, inviting the world not only to attend Games but to think, feel and act differently about everything.
Join us, you will be helping to create a world of acceptance and inclusion for all!