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The Special Olympics

by Katie McCabe  |  @awelltraveledpair  |  July 20th, 2019

Fifty years ago, the world began to change for the better, for millions of people with intellectual disabilities, and for all of those who love them.

In June 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver from Bethesda, Maryland opened the first summer camp for children with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. After years of disabled children and adults living in the shadows of society, Eunice sought out to prove that through sports, the lives of these people would transform and the public perceptions of them would change. They swam, played soccer, rode horses and people quickly took notice, diminishing their stereotypes of intellectually disabled people. Not before long, crowds would gather to watch the children and adults play, cheering them on like one big sporting event. When the Chicago Park District wanted to organize an Olympic-style track event, Eunice convinced them to allow young people with intellectual disabilities to participate. On July 20, 1968, one thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities from the USA and Canada competed in the first Special Olympics International Summer Games in Chicago. It was the beginning of a global movement. 

Today, 4.9 million athletes participate in Special Olympic activities in 172 countries. Throughout the year, the athletes train hard. They develop courage and confidence. They build friendships. But more importantly, they realize their potential. With the help of amazing coaches and volunteers, the athletes gain the willingness to challenge themselves, and grow as individuals. Something Eunice Kennedy Shriver knew back in 1962. 

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"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

-Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Become a coach!

 

Become a volunteer!

 

Donate!

 

Be a spectator!

Come out to support and cheer on the athletes!

***All photos are the property of Special Olympics***