2006.07.13: July 13, 2006: Headlines: Directors - Shriver: Special Olypmics: USA Today: The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver: Sargent Shriver: Newest Stories: 2006.07.08: July 8, 2006: Headlines: Directors - Shriver: NGOs: Special Olympics: Washington Post: Colman McCarthy writes: Eunice Shriver's Endless Gifts : 2006.07.13: July 13, 2006: Headlines: Directors - Shriver: Special Olypmics: USA Today: The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-111-210.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.245.111.210) on Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - 11:03 am: Edit Post

The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied

The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied

"If you don't have an idea that materializes and changes a person's life, then what have you got?" Shriver said in a telephone interview the other day. "You don't really have much of anything. You have talk, you have research, you have telephone calls, you have meetings, but you don't have a change in the community. Our friends provide an enormous gift to the community when they know they can do something well. When their light shines, our light shines."

The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied

Special Olympics led by special light
Updated 7/13/2006 12:31 AM ET E-mail | Save | Print | Subscribe to stories like this Subscribe to stories like this
One of the world's most influential sportswomen has never won an Olympic gold medal, a Wimbledon title or an LPGA tournament. She has never been known for any record-shattering exploit on the field of play, although she did kick around a soccer ball with children in her suburban Washington backyard the other day, telling them if she could stand the 80-degree heat, they certainly could. And the kids listened, because on that particular day, the sportswoman standing among them happened to be celebrating her 85th birthday.

There are no statistics sheets for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, no official tally of wins, losses and ties. But if there were such records, if Shriver, the famous daughter of privilege who has gone on to live a life of exemplary compassion and giving, were judged as we judge athletes and teams, she would be given credit for starting the most remarkable franchise in all of sports, Special Olympics.

"I always thought nobody wanted us, nobody wanted the retards," said Loretta Claiborne, now 52, who happened to be born with both an intellectual disability and a remarkable running ability. "Then, when I was a teenager, Mrs. Shriver shook my hand. Later on, I met her again and she said, 'I'm going to come and see you run, young lady.' And she did."

Fueled by a fierce anger over the way those we once called the mentally retarded were hidden away by the rest of society, and inspired by the struggles and challenges of her older sister Rosemary, Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968. Today, the international organization provides sports training and athletic competition at no cost for 2.25 million children and adults in more than 150 countries.

"If you don't have an idea that materializes and changes a person's life, then what have you got?" Shriver said in a telephone interview the other day. "You don't really have much of anything. You have talk, you have research, you have telephone calls, you have meetings, but you don't have a change in the community. Our friends provide an enormous gift to the community when they know they can do something well. When their light shines, our light shines."

Claiborne said she was having behavioral problems as a teenager when a counselor suggested the Special Olympics because she loved to run. She made it to the national games in California in the 1970s but failed to qualify for the finals in one of the sprints when another girl cut across her lane.

Upset, she and her coach were walking across the field when they came upon Eunice Shriver, who stopped and shook her hand, wishing Loretta well.

"Here was Mrs. Shriver, saying hello to me. My mother was on welfare and never could have paid for this if it wasn't free. And Mrs. Shriver was saying hello to me."

They met again eight years later, which was when Shriver vowed to watch Claiborne run and later did exactly that at a Special Olympics 5-kilometer race. They struck up a friendship. "We stayed in contact, we'd write, just small letters, just small notes," Claiborne said. "Somebody was taking an interest in me. People would say, 'Who cares about Loretta? She's a retard.' But here's this lady who cared."

The secret to the success of Special Olympics lies in the fact that Eunice Shriver and her family all five of her grown children still are involved have never looked at Special Olympians as those to be pitied. Sitting beside Shriver at a Special Olympics tennis match 20 years ago, I was struck by her attitude when the competitors began making uncharacteristic mistakes.

"They are better than this," Shriver said, shaking her head. "I know the crowd is sympathetic, but these athletes are better than they're playing, and I wish the people here could see that."

Absolutely no one is coddled under Shriver's tutelage. "The worst thing in our house was to be caught sitting on the sofa watching TV when the sun was up," said Tim Shriver, one of Eunice and Sargent Shriver's four sons, now chairman of Special Olympics. "She said, 'Get up, get going, you're needed. Get out there.' "

On her milestone birthday Monday, Shriver was honored at a White House dinner. Joining her was her family, as well as Special Olympians past and present.

"Everybody there was saying how it would have been inconceivable 30 or 40 years ago to be able to have a presidential dinner with lots of Special Olympic athletes at the dinner, even at the president's table," said daughter Maria Shriver.

Loretta Claiborne was one of the Special Olympians who came to the White House. More than 30 years after she met Eunice Shriver, she still marvels at her mentor and friend. "I think she teaches that no matter who you are, you are no different than the next person. To me, I think she's hope."





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Story Source: USA Today

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