Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Founder of the Special Olympics

by MCS Staff

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was born in Massachusettes in 1921. She is the founder of the Special Olympics, younger sister of President John F. Kennedy, and older sister of Senators Robert F. and Ted Kennedy. She married Sagent Shriver in 1953. Sargent Shriver played an important role in the creation of the Peace Corps and is also the founder of the Head Start program and Job Corps before becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice President in 1972.

In 1962, Eunice Shriver created a camp at her Potomac home for children with intellectual disabilities. She was inspired by her sister, Rosemary Kennedy, who was born with intellectual disabilities. Rosemary eventually underwent a frontal lobotomy that caused brain damage, leaving her permanently incapacitated. At first, Camp Shriver was a day camp. The camp allowed children with intellectual disabilities to participate in athletic events. This led to Shriver promoting the concept of involvement in physical activity and other opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities as Camp Shriver evolved into the Special Olympics in 1968.

As she was working with Camp Shriver and The Special Olympics, she was also founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH and played an import role in what eventually become the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1984 she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, due to her work on behalf of those with intellectual disabilities. In 1995, her portrait was placed on a commemorative silver dollar honoring the Special Olympics. The Shrivers sold their Potomac home in 2008 after living there for over two decades. Eunice Shriver passed away on August 11, 2009, at the age of 88. Sargent Shriver passed away a year and a half later on January 18th, 2011 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

They had five children:

  • Robert Sargent Shriver III (1954)
  • Maria Owings Shriver (1956), married Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1986 and graduated from Stone Ridge in Bethesda.
  • Timothy Perry Shriver (1959), resides in Chevy Chase.
  • Mark Kennedy Shriver (1964), graduated from Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda.
  • Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver (1965), graduated from Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver Aquatic Center in North Bethesda is name in honor of the couple and a MCPS elementary school in Silver Spring was named in honor of Sargent Shriver.

Featured photo courtesy of the JFK Library.


Sargent Shriver, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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