The 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles came to a close on Sunday evening. With over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries competing, the event organizers celebrate its success and say that it is the largest humanitarian and sports event in 2015.
WHAT IS THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS?
Founded in 1968, for decades the Special Olympics has been the world’s largest sports organization for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). Worldwide, more than 4 million athletes benefit from the free sports training and healthy competition of the Special Olympics. While there is no maximum age to participate, athletes must be at least 8 years of age. The games are not just for the athletes, as their families and communities are also encouraged to participate.
Other programs, such as Healthy Athletes, Young Athletes, and the Motor Activity Training Program, expand the impact of the Special Olympics to further improve the lives of people with ID. In fact, during the 2015 World Games, Healthy Athletes equipped athletes with 500 new hearing aids, 600 new prescription glasses, and 4,000 new shoes. Without this program many of these athletes may not have had access to this vital equipment.
HISTORY OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS
Seeing the success and ever increasing international reach of today’s Special Olympics makes it difficult to believe this institution had its humble beginnings in the backyard of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1960. Eunice was one of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Her family had long been involved in politics, in fact President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy were her brothers. Eunice had an early exposure to the difficulties experienced by people with intellectual disabilities, as Rosemary, her eldest sister, faced similar challenges as a youth with ID.
Over the years Eunice witnessed the lack of programs and services available to her sister and other people with ID. In 1962 Eunice opened the first Camp Shriver in her own backyard. This summertime day camp was specifically for youth with disabilities. Approximately 35 young people with ID attended, and local high school and college students volunteered as counselors.
Bolstered by research and financial support from the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, Camp Shriver grew every summer. Its growth culminated in a collaborative event with The Chicago Park District. This first Special Olympics in 1968 paved the way for future events such as the recent Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
MINIDOC FROM THE GAMES
Our youth volunteer, Kat Ulich, once again captured the thrill of sport in a minidoc featuring her experiences at the games. Watch it below!