In recognition of her efforts in creating the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was posthumously honored as the 38th recipient of Hobart and William Smith Colleges' Elizabeth Blackwell Award in a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics Board of Directors Chair and Chief Executive Officer, accepted the award in his mother's honor.
After visiting institutions for people with intellectual disabilities across the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kennedy Shriver was appalled by their treatment. She believed that, given the same opportunities and experiences as others, they were far more capable than commonly believed.
Shriver put that vision into action in 1962 by inviting children with intellectual disabilities to Camp Shriver, a summer day camp in her backyard, to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. The Camp Shriver concept - that through sports people with intellectual disabilities can realize their potential for growth - began to spread, and in July 1968, the first International Special Olympics Games were held in Chicago, Illinois.
What began as one woman's idea evolved into a global movement that today serves three million people with intellectual disabilities in nearly 200 nations around the world. There are now both World Winter Games and World Summer Games. Documentaries, "Wide-World-of-Sports" presentations, after-school television specials, feature films, cross-aisle Congressional teamwork and relentlessly positive global word of mouth have educated the planet about Special Olympics and the capabilities of the individuals it serves.
"Schooling, medical treatment and athletic training have all changed for people with intellectual disabilities as a result of Eunice Kennedy Shriver's vision," said President Mark D. Gearan. "Critically, so have minds, attitudes and laws."
"It is through her relentless determination, passion, courage and the hard work of her and many others that her vision is being realized by millions of people the world over. She has inspired people around the globe to become believers and follow in her footsteps," explained Timothy Shriver, who has expanded the Special Olympics to countries such as China, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Herzgovina and Iraq. He has further harnessed the power of Hollywood to share stories of inspiration and change through films, television shows and TV appearances.
For more on Eunice Kennedy Shriver, view this video.