Eunice Kennedy Shriver starts a summer
day camp for young people with intellectual
disabilities at her home in Maryland to explore
their capabilities in a variety of sports and
From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual
disabilities to a global movement, Special Olympics has been
changing lives and attitudes for 50 years.
It all began in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice
Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with
intellectual disabilities were treated. Upon realizing that many
children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to
play, she decided to take action.
Soon, her vision began to take shape, as she held a summer
day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in
her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children
could do in sports and other activities – and not dwell on what
they could not do.
The U.S. Olympic Committee gives Special Olympics offi cial approval
as one of only two organizations authorized to use the name
“Olympics” in the United States.
The fi rst International Special
Olympics Summer Games are
held at Soldier Field in Chicago,
Illinois. A thousand people with
intellectual disabilities from 26
U.S. states and Canada compete
in track & fi eld, swimming
and fl oor hockey.
The fi rst Western Regional Special Olympics
is held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Nine hundred athletes from Arizona, California,
Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada and
Utah participate. With the success of this
event, each western state begins to formulate
plans to organize its own chapter program, and
the California chapter is formed, co-founded by
Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson.
The second International Special
Olympics Summer Games take place in
Chicago, Ill., with 1,500 athletes from
all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto
Rico, Canada and France.
1968 1969 1970
10 Special Olympics Northern California