Sunday, August 11, 2013

Remembering Eunice Kennedy Shriver July 10, 1921 - August 11, 2009

The Right to Play on any playing field?
     You have earned it.

The Right to study in any school?
      You have earned it.

The Right to hold a job?
      You have earned it.

The Right to be anyone's neighbor?
       You have earned.

These are the words spoken by Eunice Kennedy Shriver at the 1987 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Those of us with special needs children understand the importance of these words.  My oldest son, Trevor was born with Down Syndrome.  He attends a special school and growing up participated in Special Olympics.  Eunice Kennedy Shriver is the reason that my son and thousands upon thousands of other children and adults are able to do more than exist.  They are able to compete and grow like so called "normal children and adults"

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a member of the famous Kennedy family and sister to John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.  She was the fifth of nine children to Joseph and Rose (Fitzgerald) Kennedy.  She was born and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts and educated at the Manhattanville College in New York.  She graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelors degree in Sociology and then worked for the Special War Problems division of the U.S. State Department.  She would then transfer to the U.S. Justice Department as an executive secretary where she worked with juvenile delinquents.  She also served as a social worker at the Federal Industrial Institution for Women and finally moved to Chicago to work with the House of the Good Shepherd women's shelter.

As with the rest of her family, Eunice was a strong democrat and was very instrumental in her brother, JFK's presidential campaign.  She was very outspoken in her beliefs and was a strong supporter of the pro-life movement. She worked hard for several pro life organizations.

She is recognized as the founder of the Special Olympics and founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  She helped in establishing many health care facilities  and support networks around the country.

She received many awards and accolades for her work including the Presidential Medal of Freedom because of her work with mental retardation and The Eagle Award from the U.S. Sports Academy for her contributions to international sports.  She is the second American and the only woman to appear on a U.S. coin (while still living) honoring her work on Special Olympics.  Engraved on the coin are her words "As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us."  Sports Illustrated magazine named her the first recipient of Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was married to Sargent Shriver.  Her husband initiated the Peace Corp and was the U.S. Ambassador to France.  Eunice and Sargent were the parents to five children including Maria Shriver, a well known television personality.

Shriver suffered from Addison's disease along with a stroke and broken hip in 2005.  She died on August 10, 2009 at the age of 88.

Special Olympians leading the procession
Her funeral program
Her (invitation only) funeral mass was held on August 14, 2009 in the St. Francis Zavier Roman Catholic Church in Hyannis (funeral program and prayer card pictured).  Before her service began, Special Olympians carried the torch into the church.  They took part in a procession toward the church. Among those who participated in the mass was her daughter and (former) son in law, Maria and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Maria said of her mother "She was scary smart and not afraid to show it.  If she were here today...she would pound this podium...and ask each of you what you have done today to better the world."   In her funeral program are her words

Her prayer card

  "When we wake tomorrow, let us not forget that we have miles to go to overturn the prejudice and oppression facing the world's 180 million citizens with intellectual disabilities.  But what joy, for together we have begun.  May you each continue to spend your lives in this noble battle.  May you overcome ignorance.  May you challenge indifference at every turn.  And may you find great joy in the noonday light of the great athletes of Special Olympics."

Today, 3.1 million people with mental disabilities participate in 228 programs in 170 nations.

 She was laid to rest in the St. Francis Xavier parish cemetery.

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