Eunice Shriver died this year, and she rightfully was hailed for her part in the creation of the Special Olympics program. In 1968, a teacher from Chicago approached Shriver with the idea for a one-time “Olympics” for the mentally handicapped. Shriver recognized the worth of the program, and approved a grant to fund it.
The first International Special Olympics was held in Chicago in 1968, with some 1,000 participants. The International Games are still held every four years, while state Special Olympics organizations often have annual events.
In 1977, the concept was extended to winter events, and the first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Like the regular Olympic Games the summer and winter Special Olympics take place two years apart.
More than 3.1 million people now participate in Special Olympics around the world. I don’t usually quote the Web pages of those who are recognized as Great American Things, but I can’t state the mission of Special Olympics any better than this:
“The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
Thank you, Eunice Shriver.