Eunice Kennedy Shriver legacy of playing to win lives on on her 100th birthday

Photo Credit: Special Olympics
Photo Credit: Special Olympics /

Eunice Kennedy Shriver would have turned 100 years old this year. Her life’s work — bringing people of different backgrounds together through sport continues today.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver would have turned 100 years old on July 10, 2021. The Special Olympics, created by Eunice, recently turned 53 years old, born July 20, 1968, in Chicago, Illinois.

Inclusion. Sport. Empathy. Dedication. Possibility. Competition. Winning.

Those are some of the words that drove Eunice’s vision to change the world back then and are still relevant today.

How Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics

Shriver’s impactful legacy continues to be driven forward by her five children and 19 grandchildren. Tim Shriver, the third of Eunice’s five children, has been the Chairman of the Special Olympics since 1996.

“People look at me and they go he’s been a good and loyal son, sometimes people say that to me,” Tim Shriver said. “I’m flattered by it, but I hope they know that may be the most important thing she gave me is my own sense of joy and purpose in this work and for that, I’m enormously grateful.”

Shriver is also the CEO of UNITE, an initiative to promote national unity and solidarity across differences.

“Maybe the legacy is that she gave me the chance to feel that I am fulfilled in this work,” (Tim) Shriver said.  “That I love this work, that I love learning from people with intellectual disabilities, that I have a blast visiting schools where I see kids playing on unified sports teams, where I am so excited when I get to talk to political leaders in countries and say you’ve gotta change the law, you’ve gotta support this work.”

Two of Eunice’s grandchildren, Timbo (officially known as Timothy Shriver Jr.) and Kathleen Shriver, are both members of the  Special Olympics Founder’s council. They are required to both participate in Special Olympics activities and be advocates for the movement, which has always focused on winning.

“Most people don’t put the competitive edge alongside inclusion, those don’t normally run together,” Timbo Shriver said.  “That was her. It was maximum competition, maximum inclusion.”

Motivation for Eunice to start the Special Olympics is often attributed to her older sister Rosemary who had been placed in an institution with an intellectual disability. But, Eunice herself was also limited by the times she grew up in.

“She learned the power of sport through her own experience of exclusion,” Kathleen Shriver said. “Growing up in a man’s world, wanting to be a politician, not having her voice heard because she was a woman.”

Even though Eunice passed away in 2009, her voice is still being heard through the power of her work, the athletes she touched and the continued dedication of her family.

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