United in Service

Tim, Mark and Anthony Shriver are dedicated to making the world a better place, just as their mother and father were

From March 14-21, 2019, more than 7,000 athletes competed in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Part of the United Arab Emirates’ “Year of Tolerance,” a national program to promote tolerance, compassion and peace, the event marks the first time that a country in the Middle East has ever hosted a global Olympics of any kind. Teams from 190 countries were sent to compete in 24 sports ranging alphabetically from Athletics,—which itself includes multiple track and field events—to Volleyball. Participants included individuals, teams and Unified Teams, which combine an approximately equal number of Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities, and partners without intellectual disabilities. 

In the 50 years since Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics, the organization has served and transformed the lives of millions of people through its programs of empowerment and inclusion. Recent federal budget cuts threaten to completely de-fund the organization, which would impact the 5.6 million athletes who currently participate in Special Olympics programs worldwide. Chairman Timothy Shriver has been working for the organization since 1996 and says, “My parents would be blown away to see 190 nations coming together to see this vision that my mom had 50 years ago.” And although Chicago hosted the first games in 1968 on Soldiers Field, and Camp Shriver took place at the family’s homes in Maryland, in many respects, Special Olympics began right here on the Cape, in Hyannis Port, in the 1950s. Over half a century later, this village and the waters of Nantucket Sound continue to play significant roles in the organization, and the children and grandchildren of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver continue to work for inclusion and peace. 

Tim Shriver

Tim Shriver describes Hyannis Port as “the lab in which Special Olympics grew.” Eunice had eight siblings, including John and Robert Kennedy, and her sister Rosemary was her chief inspiration for starting what would evolve into an organization with global reach. Born with intellectual disabilities (ID), Rosemary faced “prejudice and stigma” in the outside world, and, according to the Special Olympics official website: “When Rosemary’s parents tried to find the right school for her, they found closed hearts and closed doors. People saw no future for someone with intellectual disabilities.” Yet, in Hyannis Port, things were different. Tim Shriver explains: “My mother and uncles could play sports with Rosemary here—she loved sailing and swimming. In Hyannis Port, Rosemary was naturally, seamlessly herself.” Because of this history, Tim chose to launch the 50th anniversary celebration for Special Olympics here, “on the lawn where Rosemary would have played with her siblings.” On July 20, 2018, as they lit “the flame of hope,” Tim honored his aunt Rosemary, describing her as “the first teacher of inclusion. The professor who wrote no book, gave no speech, won no award, but she tumbled out of this house with her brothers and sisters every morning. She went down to the pier for races every week.”