Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Special Olympics: Special in More Ways Than One: The Games Help Achieve Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Ultimate Goal: Building a More Inclusive and Accepting World

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Special Olympics: Special in More Ways Than One: The Games Help Achieve Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Ultimate Goal: Building a More Inclusive and Accepting World

Article excerpt

On Sunday, June 15, about 3,500 special-needs athletes with intellectual disabilities from all 50 states convened at the Newark, New Jersey Prudential Center to participate in the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games. All in all, some 18,000 individuals were expected to attend the ceremonies for the "largest, most dynamic, and innovative national games in the history of Special Olympics," according to T J. Nelligan, the games' Chairman and CEO.

The athletes then began a week of both individual and team competition in a diverse array of 16 sporting events, including baseball, basketball, flag football, soccer, cycling, bowling and aquatics. The competitors were joined by as many as 1,000 coaches and 70,000 family members and spectators, as well as 10,000 volunteers.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The majority of the games took place in New Jersey's Mercer County, and specific events were held on the campuses of Rider and Princeton universities.

Prior to the games, police officers from 50 states and the District of Columbia launched the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a marathon through various sites in New Jersey, New York City and Philadelphia, carrying the Special Olympics "Flame of Hope" to light a cauldron at the games' opening ceremonies.

The closing ceremonies for the games took place on June 20 at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.

ORIGIN OF THE GAMES

The idea of an athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities originated with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late President. Shriver headed the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and was a member of President Kennedy's Panel on Mental Retardation.

Beginning in 1962, she invited children with intellectual disabilities to come and play on her farm in Maryland as part of a program she called Camp Shriver. The camp became a yearly event and the Kennedy Foundation gave grants to universities and community centers to hold similar camps. The idea of athletic competition for people with intellectual disabilities evolved and resulted in the first International Special Olympics Summer Games, a one-day event held in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. …

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