International (SOI)

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Special Olympics International 

Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for persons with intellectual disability.

Special Olympics began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the First International Summer Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disability. She saw that individuals with intellectual disability were farmore capable in sports and physical activities than experts thought.

In December 1968, Special Olympics was established as a nonprofit charitable organization under the laws of the District of Columbia, USA. The National Association for Retarded Citizens, the Council for Exceptional Children and the American Association on Mental Deficiency pledged their support for this first systemic effort to provide sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disability based on the Olympic tradition and spirit. Since 1968,millions of children and adults with intellectual disability have participated in Special Olympics around the world.

The leaders of Special Olympics were Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Founder and Honorary Chairman; Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO; and Sargent Shriver, Chairman Emeritus.

Soon after President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver launched a crusade to change the way the world treated — or ignored — intellectual disabilities.  This re-education program gained credence as the Kennedys disclosed that one of their own, Rosemary Kennedy, had intellectual disabilities.  Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Shriver’s commitment saw not only landmark legislation dealing with intellectual disabilities and disability rights, but was also instrumental in bringing intellectual disabilities out of the darkness and into the light of public acceptance.