Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Hera's Sports Club - Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Eunice Kennedy Shriver is a global reference in the fight for the rights and inclusion of people with learning challenges. In this way, sport became the tool par excellence to achieve it; thus the Special Olympics were born.

V International Special Olympics Summer Games. New York, USA. 1979.

Member of the illustrious Kennedy family, relevant in the politics of the United States, this is how her history and her legacy are summarized in 10 keys facts:

  1. Long life: she was born on July 10, 1921 in Brookline, Massachusetts (United States) and died at the age of 88, on August 11, 2009 in Hyannis, Massachusetts (United States).
  2. A Kennedy: Eunice was the fifth of the 9 children that Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy had. On May 23, 1953, she married Robert Sargent Shriver, with whom she had 5 children who have become the guardians of her work. 
  3. Academic background: graduated in Sociology from Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.
  4. Public servant:
  • Eunice began her career working in the United States Department of State, specifically in the Special War Problems Division.
  • In 1950, she served in the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, and the following year moved to Chicago to work in the Chicago Juvenile Court and with the House of the Good Shepherd Foundation.
  • In 1957, she assumed the direction of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, in honor of his brother. This institution has been focused on prevention, research, and social actions on mental disabilities, making progress in American society over the years.
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver was also a founder of thethe National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which is a part of the National Institutes of Health.
  • In the early 1980s, she founded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring at the University of Utah.
  1. Her inspiration: Rosemary, one of the Kennedy sisters, was a person with learning challenges. Eunice and Rosemary grew up playing sports together and with the family: swimming, sailing, skiing, soccer. However, at the time there were few and limited options for people like Rosemary to get started in sports or to get spaces and conditions necessary for an equitable learning.

Furthermore, Eunice had seen the way they were treated, being marginalized and usually confined in institutions.

XII International Special Olympics Summer Games; Shanghai, China. 2007.
  1. Camp Shriver: In June 1962, with Camp Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver sowed the first seed of what would be her greatest legacy. The event was organized over the summer to host people with intellectual disabilities, on a land that was part of her own home in Maryland.
  2. The first Special Olympics: the camp was the starting point for the creation of the Special Olympics, an organization focused on giving visibility and opportunities to people with learning challenges, with sport as a way to develop their potential and abilities.

    In 1968 the first edition of the Special Summer Olympics was held in Chicago. 1,000 athletes from 26 states of the United States and Canada participated in the event.
  3. Exponential growth: Special Olympics has become a global movement, with nearly 5 million participants in at least 170 countries.
  4. A curious fact: on the occasion of the 1995 Special Olympics, a commemorative silver coin was minted, with the portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She is the only woman who, still alive, appeared in a United States coin.
  5. Awards and honours:
  • In 1984, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan for her work.
  • In 1990 she was honored with the Eagle Award from the United States Sports Academy for her contribution to international sport, while in 1995 she was recognized with the Civilian International World Citizenship Award for her advocacy on the Special Olympics.
  • In 2002, she received the Theodore Roosevelt Award, awarded by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for her contribution to college sports.
  • That just to mention some of the most relevant, because the work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver has been recognized and commemorated by different organizations and associations, in different fields.
Eunice received the Theodore Roosevelt Award in 2002.

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