During President’s Kennedy’s time in office, Mrs. Shriver advocated for research, services and recognition for people with intellectual disabilities, their families and for developing professionals to work with them. Her work at the Foundation ranged from supporting and advocating for basic research on the causes of intellectual disabilities to recommendations for legislation (P.L. 88-164 and P.L. 88-156) that resulted in the development of research centers at major universities now known as Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRC) and the University Affiliated Facilities, now known as University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD); as well as clinical training programs for professionals working with children with disabilities and special health care needs under Title V of the Social Security Act, which have evolved into the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Programs. Together, these programs have trained thousands of professionals, from researchers to clinicians. This work transformed the field by making it possible for students to see a role for themselves, during their academic careers, in research, training and service.
She also began the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Public Policy Fellowship program, bringing promising professionals and family advocates to Washington for a year at a time, to work on a Congressional Committee, learning how policy is made in Washington.
The Community of Caring program, begun as an effort to reduce teen pregnancy, was built around five core values that empower young people to be responsible and caring members of a community: Caring, Respect, Responsibility, Trust, and Family. That program, a well regarded character education approach to reducing destructive behaviors, is now in schools in 46 states and Canada.
It was from the foundation in 1968, she started what would become the world's largest athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Now, more than 1 million athletes in more than 160 countries participate in Special Olympics meets each year. Realizing the children were far more capable of sports than experts said, Shriver organized the first Special Olympics in 1968 in Chicago. The two-day event drew more than 1,000 participants from 26 states and Canada. At the World Games in 2007 in Shanghai, China there were 80,000 people in the opening ceremonies with more than 7,000 athletes from around the world.
Mrs. Shriver received so many honors and awards including America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received in 1984. In May 2009, the National Portrait Gallery installed a painting of her - the first portrait commissioned by the museum of someone who had not been a president or first lady.
Her son Mark Shriver said about his parents…"In the course of our upbringing, they stressed the importance of giving back," he said. "But we didn't sit around having family discussions about it. We learned by what she and my father were doing." Her son Tim Shriver said, in a letter to the Special Olympics Movement “She fought the good fight, she kept the faith, and though she knew the race for equality was not finished, she knew that the army of supports she had hoped for long ago had become a reality that would carry and someday complete her vision. On her behalf, as we prepare to say our last goodbyes, my family and I thank you for your shared commitment to that dream.”
For more information about Mrs. Shriver and her legacy, or to offer a written tribute, go to www.eunicekennedyshriver.org.
Community of Caring at the University of Utah
Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University
Special Olympics International
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