Every two years the Special Olympics occur, bringing together 165 nations and over 6,000 athletes to celebrate athletic accomplishment, unity and dignity. It all started in the 1960s when Eunice Shriver noticed the unfair treatment of children with intellectual disabilities. From a young age, she quickly developed a passion for sports. After graduating from Stanford, Shriver worked for many juvenile departments. As she noticed the treatment of children with disabilities, Shriver held summer camps in her own backyard for these children and observed their athletic abilities. Through the 1960s, Shriver continued her work, working for the equality of people with intellectual disabilities. Her efforts would eventually turn into the Special Olympics.
After working with the Joseph P. Kennedy foundation and Dr. William Freeberg of Southern Illinois University, the first ever Special Olympics was held on July 20, 1968 in Chicago. This first event brought together about 1,000 athletes from the United States and Canada to compete in sports such as track and field, swimming and floor hockey. With this event, Shriver hoped to set aside intellectual differences, instead focusing on the ideas of athletics and acceptance.
Fast forward 47 years and the Special Olympics has become one of the biggest events in the world. This past summer, the event was held for the 24th time, attracting supporters from all around the globe. Broadcasted to viewers across six continents, what was once a bright idea by a woman in Chicago has become a worldwide event, bringing ideas of acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.