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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Aug 11, 2009

Special Olympians, past and present, were on the verge of losing a very special friend as of this writing Monday.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who heralded this cause for more than 45 years, was still in criticial condition Monday in her beloved state of Massachusetts surrounded by her husband and family.

For Special Olympics, she demonstrated passion, courage, spirit and skill in conveying her wonderful inspiration to fellow Americans, and then to the rest of the world.

It was in 1962 Shriver organized a summer day camp in the backyard of her Maryland home. Participants were children and adults alike who had intellectual disabilities. The goal of the camp was to offer encouragement to explore their capabilities in a variety of physical activities and organized sports. The idea blossomed so much that by the summer of 1968, the first Special Olympics Summer games on an international level were staged at Soldier Field in Chicago. Over 1,000 eligible participants from 26 states and Canada competed in track, field and swimming events. Nine years later, winter games were added to the schedule, giving participants a broader scope in which to shine. The first event was held in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

A momentous occasion was October 2007 when the city of Shanghai, China, was host to the Special Olympics World Summer Games as more than 7,500 athletes from 164 countries gathered. In celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2008, Special Olympians numbered more than 3 million in more than 180 countries.

To think this was the idea of an American homemaker and mother who believed everyone should have a fair shake in the realm of sports. Perhaps it was her love for her sister Rosemary who was mentally disabled which coaxed her Special Olympic notions into reality. Or maybe, being a Kennedy, she wanted to do some good for other people, something that appears to be a family trademark.

Whatever the reason, Eunice Kennedy Shriver is the unrivaled champion for Special Olympians. She has unblocked barriers with her special design and has changed the lives of countless individuals since 1962. Bob Johnson, president and CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts recently described the founder perfectly. “She is a visionary. She is a determined individual who has had a profound impact upon the quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities worldwide.”

No one can argue with our sentiment the world is a better place because of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who inspires all of us to think differently.