Volunteer Spotlight: Christian Santiago

Christian Santiago is a volunteer photographer who travels throughout the state to take pictures at SOMA events. Christian donates his time, expertise, and equipment to capture the many special moments of SOMA and shares his pictures with the SOMA community on our Smug Mug page:

“Last year I found out that one of my nephews has a special condition which causes him seizures, speech impairment, and prevents him from having full mobility. One of my best friends also just had a son who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. I wanted to help, in one way or another. I wanted to understand, to know what it’s like to work with a child with special needs.

Around spring time, the company I work for was promoting and encouraging volunteering for the Summer Games, so I decided to check it out. While signing up, I didn’t know what to expect, but once I saw that there were positions available for photographers, the decision was obvious. Photography is my hobby after all.

Photography is about the moment, so I wanted to capture the action and emotions happening so that I could share it with everyone else. I felt these athletes deserved this for all of their hard work. Being my hobby, I also wanted to use the opportunity to have fun and work on my photography skills.

While volunteering at Summer Games, I met a lot of people who were really happy to see me taking pictures. Asking the athletes for team pictures was very exciting for them, too. Some of the athletes made it known that they really wanted to see the resulting pictures. Some even asked if I could send a copy directly to them, which I did right after the tournament.

After the Summer Games, I learned that there were more events to come. A lot of them sounded fun, so of course I volunteered again. Softball, bocce, equestrian, and even a halloween themed 5k. All of these events were a lot of fun to volunteer with, especially the Amherst Trick-or-Trot with everyone dressed in costumes!

Volunteering as a photographer has been a lot of work with the travel and processing hundreds of pictures per event. But even with all of the work, it has been very rewarding. I’m glad I’m giving to a good cause!”

Law Enforcement Spotlight: Officer Kristine Crosman

By: Theresa Gaffney



125 cities, 13 days, 1 flame of hope.  Officer Kristine Crosman of the North Attleboro Police Department had the honor of representing Massachusetts in the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) at this year’s Special Olympics World Games in L.A.

On May 26, the Flame of Hope began its journey across America in the first ever Unified Relay.  Upon reaching California, the flame was passed to the LETR Final Leg Team.  For 13 days they carried the torch all over the state of California to honor the hope, opportunity, and community that Special Olympics fosters for athletes all across the globe.

For Officer Crosman, the run had an even deeper significance, as she honored her daughter Kailyn, who was a Special Olympics athlete.  Kailyn was 9 years old when she passed away last April.

However, Special Olympics has been a part of Crosman’s life for a much longer time.  She began volunteering with Special Olympics when she was in high school at North Attleboro High.  She continued participating as she went on to college at Bridgewater State, but it wasn’t until much more recently that she became actively involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

18391_891624990884567_2253330790314746287_nIn the spring of 2012 at the Attleboro School Day Games, Crosman watched Kailyn do all the things that “she was told she would never do” such as hit, kick, and jump.  Kailyn used a wheelchair, but all the activities were modified by the organizers of the event so that she could participate.

It was this moment that made Crosman realize the impact that Special Olympics could have on the lives of athletes.  Since then, she and her husband, Mansfield Police Sgt. Larry Crosman, have actively volunteered and planned numerous events.  They also both hold positions on the LETR board.

There have been many highlights over the years of her volunteer work, said Crosman.  One memory that stands out was hosting her first LETR 5K race.  The 2015 North Attleboro Glow in the Park 5K drew over 500 people and raised over $25,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts.

“It makes me proud to see what I was able to accomplish with the help of my husband, family, friends, co-workers, and community,” said Crosman.

And it certainly is a community that Crosman and her family have behind her.  From the Glow in the Dark 5K to the Cruiser Convoy at the State Games each year, the North Attleboro Police Department continues to support Crosman and Special Olympics.  “Working as a team outside of work is fun and rewarding,” Crosman said. She and her department participated in the First Annual LETR Chili Chowder Cook Off, an event organized by her husband.

The Torch Run, however, is on an entirely different level than the local cook off.  Crosman does not know why she was chosen, “especially since I really do not like to run,” she joked.

“I would like to think that the powers that be in Special Olympics and LETR saw something in me that I did not initially see in myself,” she said.

Crosman was inspired by the image in her mind of her daughter Kailyn running, “in those hot pink sneakers she loved to wear.”  She trained 4-5 days a week, and despite being side tracked by a knee injury, she went on to run for 13 days straight with the Final Leg.11705178_888446241202442_4446842122090096427_n

It was a challenge, but according to Crosman, what was even more of a challenge was mentally preparing.  “I am not sure if you can ever be mentally prepared for the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.

Crosman ran with 73 other Law Enforcement Officers and 10 Special Olympics Athletes.  The Special Olympics World Games began on July 25 and concluded on August 2, 2015.


Parrot Heads – A Special Olympics Tradition!

For the members of the Parrot Head Club of Eastern Massachusetts [PHCOEM], each October is marked by a trip to the Cape. Not to avoid crowds at the beach and drive freely back and forth over the Bourne Bridge, club members make the journey to volunteer at the annual Special Olympics Massachusetts Senior Sports Classic.

For anyone who doesn’t know, a “Parrot Head” is a fan of and devotee to the music and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett. Caribbean themed tunes rise above the sizzle of burgers and dogs on the grill as the Parrot Heads prepare food for the 150+ athletes, 90 volunteers and countless family members, coaches and spectators. The President of the club, Karen Feldeisen, who goes by the name Sunshine, stepped away from the outdoor prep kitchen to let us know why this group of fun-in-the-sun-loving Parrot Heads volunteer their time with SOMA.

When asked about the origin of this relationship, Sunshine goes back over 30 years – “There are a lot of us [Parrot Heads] that have done coaching for years. I started with Special Olympics in 1983 and it’s now our main charity. We help a lot of charities. We work with Alzheimer’s, MS and others, but Special Olympics is our main charity.”

The relationship is highlighted on the group’s website:

Back in 1994, PHCOEM was supporting a wide variety of community causes. A suggestion was made by one of our members that we should focus more attention on helping people. And thus, we began our relationship with the Massachusetts Special Olympics. The Special Olympics gives us an opportunity to help out year round and it provides our club with both volunteer and fund-raising event opportunities. Plus, we get to experience the results of our efforts immediately in the infectious smiles and warm hugs from the athletes.

This was certainly not the parrot head’s first rodeo, in addition to helping with lunch at the Senior Sports Classic each fall, Karen described some of their involvement throughout the year “We do the regional games, state-level games for the winter and summer seasons. We do the dance at Summer Games and for Winter Games, we do the dance and the Olympic Town. We cook at several different locations including Taunton, Brockton, Summer Games at BU and Winter Games in Worcester. We help with the Jolly Jaunts. We do a lot of stuff with Massachusetts Law Enforcement Torch Run – we do the truck pull, Polar Plunge and some of us plunged in -11 degrees. It was awesome!”It sounds like this group of Parrot Heads gets in some beach time even in the winter in New England!

While we can certainly see the benefit to SOMA and all of the athletes competing at the events, what do the Parrot Heads get out of this relationship? Karen remarks “It’s one of the volunteer things that you do that you really are hands on with the athletes. You’re helping the athletes. You see the athletes. You see them come with their medals and they’re so proud. Any little thing you do for them, they are so appreciative. You can go from one event to another and the athletes remember you personally. It’s the best group of people. It’s just awesome!”

If you are interested in helping out at a future event, Karen has a warning “It’ll change your heart forever. You’re gonna get hooked.”

Back at the food tent, lunch is being served and the athletes are taking a much deserved break before the afternoon competition. After grabbing my meal and taking a seat in the middle of all the action, I couldn’t help but realize I was enjoying a Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Thanks to the Parrot Head Club of Eastern Massachusetts and all of the volunteers who lent a helping hand at the 2015 Senior Sports Classic!


Law Enforcement Spotlight: Rick Pierce

MDV_9138-XLBy: Theresa Gaffney

Retired Attleboro Police Chief Rick Pierce first got involved with Special Olympics in 1992, when he was part of the first group of officers to attend the Attleboro School Day Games.  He is now the co-director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) and has attended Attleboro School Day Games every year since.

Pierce had no idea when he agreed to do the School Day Games that he was signing on to what would become one of his greatest passions.  “I had heard of [the School Day Games] before, but this was the first time any police officers were going to attend,” Pierce remembered.  Once he got there, however, he knew he was interested in coming back.

“I was overwhelmed by what was taking place,” he said.  “I realized how excited the athletes were and how much they appreciated receiving a medal from a uniformed police officer.  From that point on, I wanted to help raise awareness and help support the many individuals with intellectual disabilities through the activities and events of Special Olympics Massachusetts.”

So in 2004 when Pierce was asked to help revive the LETR program in Massachusetts, he eagerly accepted.  He rose the ranks from Bristol County Coordinator to South Section Representative to the Executive Council.  In 2011, the year after he retired from his position as Chief of Police in Attleboro, Pierce was selected to be one of the co-directors of the program.

In that time, Pierce has watched the LETR program grow into something that he had never dreamed it could.  When they first brought back the program, LETR raised less than $1,500 for Special Olympics.  In 2014, they raised over $268,000.

“I never envisioned raising that much money,” Pierce said.  “When we first started, I can remember saying ‘well, this sounds great, but in reality, is it ever going to happen?’  Now, I can still see it growing even more from here.”

Surprisingly, the hardest part of the job isn’t raising the funds, said Pierce, but recruiting new officers to volunteer at events.  With busy schedules, many officers are hesitant at first to volunteer any time.  But once they do it once, Pierce says, “then they get hooked.”  He stresses the importance of LETR not only for athletes, but for officers.

“Police officers and the LETR share a common belief that everyone has a fundamental right to be treated with respect, dignity, and acceptance,” Pierce said.  “By participating in the LETR, we not only get to help raise awareness and funds for athletes, but we get to experience the impact our involvement has on these athletes and their families.”

Over the years, Pierce has collected countless memories with athletes and other officers.  His most cherished memory is from his retirement party in early 2011, when twin brothers and SOMA athletes Jonathan and Kyle Titus presented him with two of their Special Olympics medals.

“As Chief of the Attleboro Police Department, many people, fellow officers, fellow chiefs, and politicians presented me with many certificates and accolades at my retirement party, but nothing meant more to me than when the Titus brothers presented me with the medals they had received competing in Special Olympics events,” said Pierce.  “It was a truly special, emotional, and heart-warming moment that I will never forget.”

Chief Pierce was an Attleboro Police Officer for 32 years, and spent his last eight as the Chief of Police.  He has been a key member of the LETR team for over a decade, and continues to inspire athletes and law enforcement officers around the

Fenway Park Batting Practice Contest Winners

Athlete Winner: Danny Williamson

My name is Danny Williamson and to me one of the best things about my experience with Special Olympics is the friendships I’ve made and the respect I’ve gotten since I joined. I’ve made friends with athletes and coaches all around the country.

Through Special Olympics I’ve earned the respect and support of my community, family, friends and fellow athletes through my efforts as a teammate and competitor in many sports. Although I stutter, I have gained enough confidence in myself to recite the Athlete’s Oath in front of thousands at Opening Ceremonies in Harvard. I’ve even been able to sing the National Anthem at other Opening Ceremonies.

Special Olympics has given me leadership skills that I use every day as a person, sports manager and coach. I have always been involved in sports, mostly as a coach or manager not an athlete. Special Olympics has let me show what I am capable of as an athlete.

I have competed (and won) at some of the best colleges in the world. State games at Harvard and Nationals at Princeton where I earned gold medals. I got to play football at Gillette Stadium and basketball at TDBank Garden during halftime of a Celtics game. I am hoping to reach my dream of going to Fenway, not as a fan but as an athlete. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Volunteer Winner: Victor Liu

When I moved to Massachusetts in third grade, I could not speak English and had a difficult time in school, especially socially. Because of my language barrier, I was excluded from the conversations and activities in which most of my peers engaged. But from the outset, I felt welcome because of my classmate Allen, the most incredible person I have had the privilege of knowing and the honor of calling my friend. Allen was an intellectually disabled Special Olympics athlete, and the enthusiasm and optimism with which he lived were remarkable and inspirational.

When I felt down after performing poorly on my first test in the U.S., Allen encouraged me not to dwell on it. When I missed out on a spot on my school’s basketball team, Allen urged me not to give up. And when I experienced issues at home, Allen was there with me and for me. Allen was the best friend I could have asked for, and since his passing three years ago, I have been actively involved in Special Olympics Massachusetts in memory of him. I volunteer at SOMA’s competitions and fundraisers, and as a member of the Youth Activation Council, I strive to increase awareness in schools across our state. At my high school, I have organized R-Word Campaigns to make clear the meaning of the R-word and formed a club dedicated to implementing Project Unify in the local community.

Over the years, SOMA has afforded me the opportunity to interact with students and athletes like Allen, to unify my friends with and without mental disabilities, and, most importantly, to help others—as Allen helped me—feel included and accepted. I am grateful for SOMA for allowing me to carry on Allen’s lifework.


Coast Guard Chiefs Host 27th Annual Special Olympics

COAST GUARD CHIEFS HOST 27th Annual Special Olympics – presented by Habilitation Assistance Corporation

By Mike Camire, USCG Ret.

On Friday, September 18th, the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer’s Association (CPOA, Cape Cod Chapter) hosted the 27th Annual Special Olympics event at the base gym on Connery Ave. Supported by over 125 volunteers and led by event coordinator, Senior Chief Chris “Chip” Melleby, the Chiefs and volunteers welcomed the Special Olympics athletes into the gym.

Programs from Plymouth, Upper Cape, Braintree and South Yarmouth competed in a variety of events.  The Olympians marched into the gym as the crowd roared their approval.  Mr. Bob Cleary and the Deputy Commander from USCG Sector South East New England (Captain Richard Schultz) delivered the opening remarks as the volunteers cheered them on.  He thanked everyone for coming and volunteering, for being part of this truly magical day.  Before the games began, the Coast Guard presented the colors led by FN Kaitlyn Haley, SA Derek Kaufman, SA Justin Coleman and FA Tyler Losacano.   Everyone enjoyed the singing of the National Anthem from two of the athletes accompanied by the beautiful voice of Ms. Sandra Hicks.

Field event coordinators supervised the events as athletes competed in track events like the 10 meter assisted walk, 10 meter wheelchair dash, 10 meter electric wheelchair dash, 25 meter walk, 50 meter dash and field events of assisted bowling and ball throw.  Some of the The “New” Coast Guard Chiefs were right there to hand out the gold, silver and bronze medals while other volunteers helped out with a variety of other duties as they helped make the day special for all the Olympians.


Once the events get going the athletes are flying all over the gym and medals are awarded; gold, silver and bronze.  At lunch the Chiefs (judges) scored the banners that each program made for the event.  The athletes literally go all out for this banner event as the winner gets an ice cream social for all their members.  The banners represent their program and always exemplify the spirit of Special Olympics and what these wonderful people are all about.  It was a close call. But the winner by the slightest of margins was Upper Cape, as their theme was “Appreciate the work of others.”  It was a 3D sensory banner and it had a nautical theme to it.  There was a lobster giving advice; like “listen well.” The crab said “strive for excellence,” they had a plane on it with this message; “Deliver quality service,” and on it went, finishing with “Hold true to our work.”  The other banners were great, but the judges were just overwhelmed with the efforts from Upper Cape.

After lunch there were just a few events left, in the standing long jump Tim Roffey took home the gold with a jump of 5 feet 3 inches, the silver went to Christine Giordano and the bronze to Tom Caprice.  In the 100 meter walk – relay Braintree took the gold while South Yarmouth brought home the silver and Upper Cape got the bronze.  The last event was the biggie; The Dottie Marshall 100 Meter Memorial Relay Race.  For the 3rd year in a row, the gold medals went to S. Yarmouth; Theresa McGarvey, Tammy Hines, Christine Giordano and Michelle Cote.  Second place went to Braintree while Upper Cape captured the bronze.

Bob Cleary passed along many thanks to the following sponsors whose generous donations helped make the day such a tremendous success; USCG Chief Petty Officers of Cape Cod, Forestdale Bouse House, Smith Catering and D.J. Adam Russell.  Gold sponsors ($300.00) were Botello Home Center, Entergy NuMotion, Audi of Norwell and Harris Rebar.  Special thanks goes out to the Army too for the use of the gym!

The CPOA would also like to send a shout of thanks to the new Chiefs, who will help to continue this tradition of supporting the Special Olympics each and every year, namely AMTC Ian Gaertner, AETC Jake Sanders, AMTC Daniel Tones, AMTC Chad McFall, BMC Jackie Wood, BMC Brent Desirey, MKC Sasha Wilson, EMC Fred Blumberg and BMC Scott Habershaw.

Every year the Chiefs rally together for this big event, and every year the military and civilian employees in the area come through big time.  Our Chief’s message is clear and I think it is the same message we get from the Olympians; working together side by side and pulling for each other no matter what the obstacle is, we will all succeed.  Truly words to live by.

And as I always say at the finish, SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!  This is an event you just shouldn’t miss.




Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2015

In Honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, we are proud to share a thesis paper written on Mrs. Shriver.


Eunice Kennedy Shriver

By Julia Keith

Just 50 years ago, people born with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) were perceived as incapable of learning or contributing to society and were often treated as outcasts. In the early 1960’s, a woman with a vision created the Special Olympics, changing the lives of the mentally disabled and their families forever. This visionary was Eunice Kennedy Shriver. EKS believed that if she created an arena for the mentally disabled to engage in athletics, it would not only provide much needed health benefits from exercise but also self-esteem benefits from competitive sports would develop as well. In addition, EKS believed that if people with intellectual disabilities had the opportunity to demonstrate that they could play and compete in sports, then they would also prove to the world that they were capable of so much more than people believed. By providing people with IDD the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics, EKS created a better future for the intellectually challenged while forever changing the way the world perceived people with disabilities while. In doing so EKS changed the lives of an entire segment of the world’s population, not only those with IDD but their families as well. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s work in creating, launching and directing the Special Olympics made her one of the most influential women in history.
EKS had three very important men who influenced her life; her father, Joseph Kennedy (JK Sr.), her brother, John F. Kennedy, and her husband, Sargent Shriver. Her father “wanted to boost his children up the ladder, especially the males.” JK Sr. created a very competitive environment for his children, which led EKS to be driven and competitive, not accepting anything but success. “Eunice’s commitment came from her desire to show her dominating, over controlling parents what she was really capable of on her own.” because of the high expectations of her parents (especially her father) EKS was extremely motivated to succeed. JK Sr. also had a genuine belief in philanthropy and commitment to civic responsibility and donated generously to religious and secular charities including the Boys Club of Boston. EKS embraced this sense of civic duty wholeheartedly. John F. Kennedy, EKS’s younger brother, similarly strove for great success and felt a great desire to serve others as well. As President of the United States he fully supported EKS throughout the Special Olympic Movement . Lastly EKS’s husband, Sargent Shriver was hugely instrumental in her success and achievements. As successful and charitable businessmen, he inspired young people to follow him in the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty movement in the early 1960s . His tremendous support for EKS contributed greatly to her success. “In picking Sargent Shriver, Eunice could not have better prepared herself for the struggle to come on behalf of the mentally retarded.”
To put it bluntly, Sarges’s presence here…has been absolutely crucial to the growth and stability of the Special Olympics program worldwide…his international experience and vision, and his executive capacity has been especially important in ripening the organization

Shriver, a caring and supportive husband, was crucial to EKS’s success, allowing her the spotlight that she deserved rather than taking it all for himself. EKS was constantly exposed to Shriver’s ‘experience’ and ‘vision’, which had strong impact on both her and the Special Olympics. He not only supported her with her goals in creating the Special Olympics but he also contributed to the success of the Special Olympics by using his ‘executive capacity’ and ‘international experiances’. With Shriver supporting her and aiding her in her goals to better the lives of those with IDD, EKS truly could not have picked a better partner. EKS was surrounded by extremely influential and supportive role models, like her father, brother and husband, and while she was determined to what prove what people with IDD were capable of, she also wanted to prove to her family that she could accomplish great things, just like the men did. With these successful and prominent men in her life, EKS had very high expectations for herself and importantly, her cause. This confident attitude propelled EKS to expect great things from the Special Olympics, because growing up surrounded by the success of her father and siblings, she felt that failure was not an option for a Kennedy. Despite living in a mans world, EKS’s competitive attitude, desire for success and sense of philanthropy enabled her to create the wildly successful Special Olympics movement and made her one of the most influential women in history.
EKS’s desire to improve the lives of the mentally disabled had close familial roots. EKS’s sister Rosemary was born with IDD. “Eunice Kennedy Shriver had a particularly close relationship with her older sister, and great empathy for Rosemary and others who faced similar challenges.” This close relationship with her sister inspired EKS to believe that she could help make a better life for all those mentally disabled. This desire to improve the lives of those with IDD intensified after Rosemary was institutionalized upon receiving a lobotomy at the age of 22, which left her permanently incapacitated and unable to care for herself. As a result of this tragedy, EKS became driven to provide people with IDD opportunities that Rosemary did not have. She sought to prevent the mentally disabled from becoming institutionalized and forgotten, because she knew that, “ If the mentally retarded were given a chance they could achieve.” Rosemary inspired EKS to create a better life for those with disabilities . This close personal connection to the mentally disabled mobilized EKS to inspire and influence so many people through the Special Olympics movement. Prior to the 1960’s, many people with IDD had no one to support them or believe in them. Driven by fear, ignorance and often medical advice, families institutionalized their children with IDD, without giving them a chance to show who they were and what they could do with their lives. “Some parents would send their MR children off to institutions and then publish notices of their death in the local papers”. As horrific as it sounds, at the time it seemed like the only option for families, at least that is what they were led to believe.
In the 1950’s the mentally retarded were among the most scorned, isolated and neglected groups in American society. Mental retardation was viewed as a hopeless, shameful disease and those afflicted with it were shunted from sight as soon as possible.

In creating the Special Olympics, EKS provided another option, enabling families to witness the great abilities of their loved ones rather than “shut them into institutions where their bodies as well as their minds became rusty with disuse.” . In America alone there is an estimated 4.6 million people with IDD , who can take advantage of all that the Special Olympics has to offer and, thanks to EKS, their families are able to see what their loved ones with IDD are truly capable of. EKS believed in great possibilities for people with disabilities and strove to provide opportunities for them to shine. Rather than closing people with IDD behind the doors of an institution, EKS opened the doors to great opportunities for the mentally disabled, making her one of the most influential women in history.
In 1961 the Special Olympics movement began as a summer camp in EKS’s own back yard with the goal of giving the mentally retarded the opportunity to run and play . About 100 athletes participated at “Camp Shriver” which inspired the formation of many similar camps around the United States. One of the more successful organizations inspired by Camp Shriver was at the Chicago Parks Department, which along with the Kennedy Foundation and EKS worked together to organize the first Special Olympic World Games in 1968. At these first World Games, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley declared, “Eunice, the world will never be the same again” This quotation captures the vast impact of EKS’s work. After the first games, it was clear that The Special Olympics, and EKS would change the world. EKS had forever altered not only the lives of athletes participating in these Games, but transformed the way the whole world perceived people with IDD. These first World Games provided at starting point from where EKS began a worldwide movement, which further demonstrates her status as one of the most influential women in history.
With her strong and determined personality EKS was able to strictly focus on her goals and was able to avoid getting entangled in the conflicts and competition of the political arena to which her family often succumbed. EKS did not focus on the political influence and impact of her family but rather focused on her goal of bettering other lives of those with IDD. If she had let herself get entwined in the families’ politics and let them influence her desire to help `those with IDD that way, she may not have been as successful as she was with the creation of the Special Olympics. She was passionate in her desire to create a better life for those with disabilities and her intense passion influenced and inspired those around her. “Rather than channeling this relentless energy into political competition, as her brothers did, Eunice sublimated it into sports.” By putting all her energy into creating athletic opportunities for people with IDD, EKS was able to truly focus on her cause, rather than be distracted by the politics surrounding it. She was so single minded that she disregarded the entrenched belief of that people with IDD were incapable of progress:
Any experts at the time thought people with mental retardation could not learn to play games or would hurt themselves in athletic activities. Eunice Kennedy Shriver felt differently

EKS was so passionate in her conviction that she set out to prove the experts wrong, that in fact it was quite the opposite: the mentally disabled were capable of great things! She ignored their professional opinion and as a result millions of people with IDD have achieved success and fulfillment through the Special Olympics. Not only have achieved success, but their entire family has felt the lasting joy, success and happiness that the Special Olympics has brought to their life. “ Eunice dedicated herself to the cause of mental retardation with the single mindedness of a medieval saint.” Her singular focus and drive helped EKS to succeed in creating the Special Olympics and forever raise the common standard for people with disabilities making her one of the most influential women in history.
EKS’s unconditional faith in those with disabilities paved the way for the success of the Special Olympics movement. EKS declared, “I wanted to convince people if the mentally retarded were given a chance they could achieve.” . She believed so wholeheartedly that those with disabilities could be important members of our society that she set out to change an entire society’s expectations of those with IDD, and prove that they were truly capable of so much more. Her outspoken confidence in their abilities was instrumental in her ability to spread and propel the Special Olympics movement worldwide.
The Special Olympics prove a very fundamental fact. The fact that exceptional children-retarded children-can be exceptional athletes. The fact that through sports they can realize the potential for growth…serves as a pledge that all retarded children will have this chance in the future.

Through the Special Olympics, EKS was able to demonstrate that children with IDD are able to succeed in sports, which helped to convince society that they could to succeed in other aspects of life as well. EKS knew this all along. EKS believed that when given the chance to become successful in athletics, people with IDD would prove that they have the potential to grow and further succeed in other aspects of life as well. EKS said, “More and more people do understand about their many different abilities.” which is a huge step forward from the neglect those with IDD were so used to receiving. By focusing on their abilities rather than their disabilities, EKS led others to do the same and showed the world what people with IDD are capable of. EKS’s confidence in the potential for success of people with IDD directly impacted society’s view on what is possible for those with IDD, demonstrating the overwhelming influence that she had in history.
In the 50 years of Special Olympics sports, millions of intellectually challenged athletes have trained and competed in sports throughout more than 170 countries worldwide . Thanks to EKS, each and every one of those athletes has learned many important athletic skills and perhaps even more important life skills. The Special Olympics teaches the athlete’s physical and athletic skills, as well as important life skills such as sportsmanship, leadership and friendship/friend making skills. It also encourages athletes to set goals for themselves and pursue their dreams outside of sports . Along with friendship-making skills come lasting friendships; with goal setting come accomplishments. Prior to the Special Olympics, people with IDD were not exposed to these essential skills. As a result most people with IDD were not only in poor physical health they also often lacked goals and dreams for their future. The Special Olympic Games provide a taste of what success feels like and inspires the athletes to achieve more in their lives, whether it be with sports or elsewhere . EKS impact on the lives of people with IDD through the Special Olympics is truly monumental and very much exponential in its repercussions.
In addition to the Special Olympics teaching athletes many essential life skills, EKS’s work has also been instrumental in integrating people with IDD into the American fabric. Through the Special Olympics and in her own activism, EKS helped bring mentally disabled Americans to fuller participation in our national life. By inviting people with disabilities further in to our nations life, EKS not only positively influenced their lives but the broadened American nation as a whole! People with IDD were no long hidden behind closed doors in institutions but were finally considered a true part of out nation. As people with IDD became more a part of the American society, another advancement for people with IDD emerged: The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 (CMHA).
The Community Mental Health Act drastically altered the delivery of mental health services and inspired a new era of optimism in mental healthcare. This law led to the establishment of comprehensive community mental health centers throughout the country. It helped people with mental illnesses who were “warehoused” in hospitals and institutions move back into their communities.

Passed by EKS’s brother, former President John F. Kennedy, the CMHA reflects JFK’s support of EKS’s goal to show society how capable people with IDD were. This act was a giant step in bettering the lives of those with IDD. Rather than locking people with IDD away in institutions, it worked toward bringing them back into the community. By establishing comprehensive community mental health centers and bringing those with IDD back into the community, it showed that the government was finally focusing on people with IDD rather than hiding them away. Not only did the CMHA recognize the needs of people with IDD, it sought to better their lives so they could truly become part of the community and the country.
President Kennedy called for society to embrace a new vision for people with mental health disorders and developmental disabilities, one in which the “cold mercy of custodial care would be replaced by the open warmth of community.”

The CMHA was extremely influential in bettering the lives of people with IDD in America and along with their fuller participation in our nation, “More and more doors are opening for people with mental retardation.” Not only was the ideology behind this Act bold and decisive by promoting inclusion of people with IDD into society but also it was incredibly successful:
No other field of health has changed as much and affected as many people as positively as the treatment of people with mental illness. The shift from in-patient to community-based care has created a more humane, effective and dignified network of support and treatment for men, women and children

This shift in the delivery of services was crucial for how those with IDD were cared for. Incorporating those with IDD into the community was best for them had a huge positive impact, because it not only was beneficial for those who are being reincorporated but it also introduced rest of the community to just how wonderful and capable those with IDD can be. EKS’s work to better the lives of those with IDD was extremely impactful in the United States whether it was her influence the Community Mental Heath Act or the Special Olympics as a whole, she was able to positively change the way the government as well as society viewed and interacted people with IDD, which provides more evidence that she was one of the most influential women in history.
EKS not only impacted the lives of millions of people with disabilities, but she also had a huge impact on their families. In 1962, EKS wrote a magazine article about her sister Rosemary , which influenced the way many families who had children with MR felt about their situation and made them realize they shouldn’t be ashamed. This was a huge step for many families because they no longer felt they were alone in their struggle; they realized that a prominent family like the Kennedy’s was going through exactly what they were. In addition to relieving the feeling of shame, EKS created a community of support that grew within the Special Olympics movement. It is a place where families with children or family members with disabilities can support, accept and befriend one another; they no longer have to go about their lives feeling different or alone because they have so many friends that are going through what they are.
Not only the Special Olympic athletes benefit from the Special Olympics. Their families are rewarded, too. In the past parents of children with mental retardation might have felt ashamed. Today they can share the pride and joy of watching their children succeed.

Thanks to EKS’s work in creating the Special Olympics, families are able to experience pride for their children rather than shame. Before EKS’s article about Rosemary, many families did not understand that it was okay to have someone with IDD, that they should not be ashamed and that there were thousands of other families out there going through just what they were, including a prominent family like the Kennedys. The Special Olympics helped families realize that their children can succeed in their sports and then continue to succeed in other parts of their lives. EKS’s impact on all the families who have a child with IDD is incredible, she helped them recognize that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed of their own child but rather be proud and supportive of all that their children could achieve. In addition to changing many parents view of their children, she also created a community of families that have children with IDD. They are no longer alone and they can ‘share’ their ‘pride and joy’ as well as their struggles with others who can truly understand and perhaps give advice! EKS’s influence on the families of people with IDD is one of the most important reasons why she is one of the most influential women in the world, EKS vision permitted parents to view their children in a new light and created a community of support for these families to love and appreciate their children with disabilities.
It can be argued that EKS does not deserve all the credit for creating the Special Olympics. Of course, without the support of her family and others who supported her cause, the great success of the Special Olympics would not have been possible. Her father JK Sr. had the initial idea to focus on the cause of the mentally retarded .
Sometime in the late spring of 1958, Joe Kennedy asked Eunice and Sarge- but mostly Sarge- to take responsibility for organizing a research program for the family foundation on the cause of mental retardation


In the early stages of the Special Olympics, Joe Kennedy Sr. considered Shriver as a leader than more so than Eunice. It was not until later that EKS truly took charge and headed the organization, so admittedly she cannot be credited for all of its success and influence. Yet she did have a tremendous amount of influence over her father and husband and was in fact responsible for the ideology behind the Special Olympics, “If Eunice hadn’t been a sportswoman, she wouldn’t have thought of the Special Olympics.” Shriver acknowledged that it was EKS who had come up with the idea of the Special Olympics. As Edward Shorter author of The Kennedy Family and the Story of Mental Retardation and history professor noted: “the ideas, the essence of the vision, came from Eunice.” Without the help and support of her family EKS would not have been able to be as successful with the Special Olympics, and with their help she was able to put her ideas and vision in to reality.
Skeptics might also argue that the Special Olympics is not the most effective way to help people with disabilities, claiming that EKS drove attention away from more effective support and advocacy of those with IDD. “In the Special Olympics there is a lack of skill acquisition, and much precious time of functional activity is lost.” This implies that the Special Olympics is taking up precious time for those with IDD and is not doing a good enough job of teaching other important skills. It can also be said that argue that the money and time spent on the Special Olympics could have been better spent on a more effective means of improving the lives of those with IDD. In addition to that argument, some believe that the infectious enthusiasm and cheering that is present at the Special Olympics events do more harm than good.
Not only does the presence of the huggers reinforce the infantilization of adults with severe disabilities, they also reinforce the belief that people with disabilities need to be “helped” by nondisabled people

‘Huggers’ are the volunteers at Special Olympics events that cheer on and support the athletes. Some feel that these ‘huggers’ promote age inappropriateness as well as the belief that people with IDD are dependent on people without disabilities. Quite contrarily, most would argue that having volunteers there to support the athletes and congratulate them further brings up the athletes self-esteem and makes the event more enjoyable for everyone, especially the athletes, who are not often the subject of applause.
The fact that EKS was not the sole contributor to the Special Olympics and the concerns with its effectiveness are two possible opposing arguments against the claim that EKS is one of the most influential women in history. Yet these two arguments pale in comparison to everything that EKS has done that has had a positive effect on the world. The number of people who have benefited immensely from the Special Olympics outshines the small group of people who doubt the effectiveness of the Special Olympics. Even though the creation of the Special Olympics was a group effort, EKS was the inspiration. The concrete proof of her positive influence and success overwhelming compared to the few arguments that attempt to diminish her influence.
Not only was EKS’s positive influence on people with IDD and their families extremely widespread, her incredible influence extended beyond these people. EKS was extremely supportive of women and women’s rights, as well. The American Feminist® named Eunice Kennedy Shriver a Remarkable Pro-Life Woman, because of she was so supportive of all women , and truly believed that women could and should be held to the same standards as any man. EKS was a founder and head of a successful worldwide organization, and did not let any man or person stop her from creating this organization that has helped so many. To do this, EKS had to surpass very successful men, her father and her husband, in order to become as successful as she was.
All the sudden she emerged from the shadows cast by her dynamic husband from the meddlesome control of her father and mother to stand in the spotlight herself.

With her wildly ambitious husband and controlling parents, EKS and her goals were in ‘the shadows’ and not given much attention. Yet she did not let that stop her and demonstrated her belief that women can become just as successful as men and did so by creating a successful worldwide organization, the Special Olympics. She was able to overcome her controlling father who failed to hold his daughters to the same standard as his sons , and “Eunice, presidential material in her own right who possessed all the qualities save the requisite gender, was determined to show her father what she could really do.” She knew that she was just as capable as her brothers or anyone male or female and embraced her cause for MR as a way to prove he father that this was true. Rather than being limited by the views of her father and society on what women are capable of she knew that she could do anything and be extremely successful at it, which enabled her to create the Special Olympic Games. EKS did not comply with society’s norms fro a traditional housewife (fortunately her husband was extremely supportive and helpful towards her success ) but rather she had her own dreams and goals, which she worked to achieve.
EKS inspired and influenced many of her family members to take on a bigger role regarding helping people with disabilities. EKS had a strong impact and influence on her father, Joe Kennedy Sr.
By the fall of 1958, it was clear that the Kennedy foundation had embarked upon an entirely new course: funding science rather than service… The second influence on the financier Joe Senior was his daughter Eunice, whose advice seems to have been crucial in the timing of the switch to science. The redeployment of funds in the late 1950’s to MR research occurred almost certainly as a result of her and Sarges growing influence on the options of the Kennedy foundation.

As a result of EKS’s influence on her father, the Foundation focused its funds and resources on MR research. The Kennedy Foundation was crucial in the forming of Special Olympics and supplied the funds that were an essential part in the creating the successful Special Olympics. Due to her relationship with her father, she gained much influence in the Kennedy Foundation and eventually gained full control of the program in the mid-1960’s. As the leader of the Foundation EKS was able to control the use of the Foundation to aid her with the Special Olympics as well as aid her in her goal of bettering the lives of the disabled. Her influence over her brother, President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was crucial to helping the lives of thousands of Americans who have IDD.
The impact of Eunice Kennedy Shriver cannot be over estimated. Largely due to her influence both personal and the through the work of the Joseph F. Kennedy Jr. Foundation which she headed-President John F. Kennedy in 1961 focused national attention on the issue and established a presidents panel charged with preparing a national plan to combat mental retardation

As recognized in the booklet summarizing documentary We’re Here to Speak for Justice: Founding California’s Regional Centers released in 2000, EKS’s influence was crucial in the forming of the national plan to combat mental retardation. Part of this national plan was the enactment of The Community Mental Health Act of 1963, which was “a bill meant to free many thousands of Americans with mental illnesses from life in institutions. It envisioned building 1,500 outpatient mental health centers to offer them community-based care instead.” As previously noted, The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was an extremely important component of the deinstitutionalizing of America and created more options and a better life for those with IDD. The federal government created a national plan that focused on the ways to improve the lives of those with IDD, thanks to EKS inspiration to and influence on her brother. Her influence did not end here, for “The influence she left on her family has kept that torch burning past her death.” Her son, Anthony Shriver created Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her other son Mark Shriver, created Save the Children’s Early Childhood Education Program and “reinvigorated literacy, nutrition, and fitness work in the United States through partnerships with more than 160 schools in some of the most impoverished regions of the country.” Her son Tim Shriver was Chairman and CEO Special Olympics for 14 years and is currently its Chairman of the board. Tim Shriver followed in his mother footsteps by creating Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, Special Olympics Get Into It®, and Unified Sports® which are all new Special Olympic programs that focus on athlete leadership, cross-cultural research, health, education, and family supports . These are just a few of the countless family members that have felt EKS’s overarching influence. Her legacy of Shriver family members have continued to support and aid her in her mission to better the lives of those with IDD further supports that she is one of the most influential women in history.
EKS shined at a time in history when it was rare for a woman to play a prominent role in a large endeavor. She not only changed the lives of millions of people with intellectual disabilities and their families but also lit the spark that led to a fundamental change in the way society views people with IDD. Her creation of the Special Olympics led to changes in public policy and innovations in medicine, education and societal acceptance of the intellectually challenged.it has been said that “The sun never sets on the Special Olympics” , this far reaching global impact the Special Olympics demonstrates the enormity of EKS’s influence on the world; EKS was truly one of the most influential women in history.


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