Special Olympics to honor founder with special day

By MORGAN DANIELS  |  Oct. 2, 2009 at 3:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Less than two months after the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement she founded is planning ways to honor her memory.

Officials say plans are under way to establish an annual Eunice Shriver Day on July 20, the anniversary of the first Special Olympic Games in Chicago in 1968. The celebration is intended to provide an opportunity to Special Olympic programs at all levels to pay tribute to Shriver and to mark the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.

Shriver displayed passion, commitment and confidence in her advocacy of the games and its athletes, said Helen MacNabb, vice president of special projects for the Special Olympics.

"The best way to honor her is to continue that fire and continue moving forward," MAcNabb said in an interview with UPI at Special Olympics headquarters in Washington.

MacNabb said Shriver, who died Aug. 11, left a global legacy, and the Special Olympics movement is determined to continue her vision through programs and ideas of inclusion and acceptance.

Special Olympics is also creating a Nobel Prize-type award called the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Awards program to recognize achievements in the field of intellectual disability, such as "greatness in research" or "greatness in innovation," MacNabb said.

"A big part of the future of Special Olympics is empowering a new generation of leaders, educating and providing them with resources from a young age," MacNabb said.

Another goal, she said, is to continue to reach out to developing countries without Special Olympics programs and to work directly with the mothers of intellectually disabled children.

The treatment of Shriver's mentally retarded sister Rosemary ignited her interest in helping the intellectually disabled and she campaigned that a supportive family was always the basis for acceptance.

"Her immediate focus was always on the athlete and then the family," MacNabb said, "and that will remain the mission of the Special Olympics."

An online celebration of Eunice Kennedy Shriver's life was created before she died at www.eunicekennedyshriver.org, where more than 1,000 tributes have been posted.

"It's a place where people can connect, find comfort and just celebrate her life," MacNabb said.

The next Special Olympic World Summer Games are scheduled for 2011 in Athens, Greece.

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