Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Special Olympics Connecticut is excited and proud to celebrate 50 years of history and launch the next 50 years of our global movement. 

As we look toward the future and building our next 50 years, our ultimate goal is to eliminate the discrimination of people with intellectual disabilities. We want to accomplish this goal by creating an inclusive world where justice and joy go hand-in-hand. 

Inclusion Revolution Manifesto

We are the Ambassadors of an uprising 

Peaceful protesters in a rebellion against anyone who has a fear of difference

Our demands are equality, dignity, and the recognition of our shared humanity.

We will not stop or accept anything less. We are deserving.

When we compete, we're fighting for a more inclusive world.

We are champions on the field and for this cause. 

Today, our world is more divided than ever, and coming together has never been more urgent.

This revolution is inclusion. And it's not optional

The only choice you need to make is how you will join it. Get involved!

A Look Back at Our Rich History - Special Olympics Milestones

June 1962

Eunice Kennedy Shriver begins a summer day camp at her home in Maryland for children with intellectual disabilities to realize their capabilities in sports and physical activities.

July 1968

The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. 1000 individuals with intellectual disabilities from 26 states and Canada compete in track and field and swimming. 

December 1971

The U.S. Olympic Committee gives Special Olympics official approval as one of only two organizations authorized to use the name "Olympics" in the United States.

February 5th-11th 1977

Steamboat Springs, Colorado, hosts the first International Special Olympics Winter Games, with more than 500 athletes competing in skiing and skating events. U.S. television networks CBS, ABC & NBC cover the Games. 

June 1981

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is launched in Wichita, Kansas, USA, after Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise awareness for Special Olympics. The Torch Run is now Special Olympics' largest grassroots fundraiser, raising nearly $40 million annually. 

March 26th 1984

At a ceremony held at the White House, President Ronald Reagan awards Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver a Presidential Medal of Freedom to honor her work with Special Olympics and her efforts on behalf of persons with intellectual disabilities. 

September 1986

The United Nations in New York City launches the International Year of Special Olympics under the banner "Special Olympics- Uniting the World".

July 1987

More than 30,000 law enforcement officers from all 50 U.S. states and seven different countries run 26,000 miles to raise $2 million in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. 

February 1988

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) signs a historic agreement with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in which the IOC officially endorses and recognizes Special Olympics. During the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee, officially recognizes Special Olympics on behalf of the IOC.

July 1988

Special Olympics officially launches Unified Sports, a new initiative aimed at bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

July 1st-9th 1995

A number of new initiatives make their debut at the Ninth Special Olympics World Summer Games held in New Haven, Connecticut, including the Host Town Program, Healthy Athletes® and Research and Policy Symposia. For the first time, individuals with intellectual disabilities serve as certified sports officials. 

January 1997

Healthy Athletes® becomes an official Special Olympics initiative, providing health care services to Special Olympics athletes worldwide. The program includes free vision, hearing and dental screenings; injury prevention clinics and nutrition education. 

January 16th 2000

ABC-TV's The Wonderful World of Disney presents the Loretta Claiborne Story, the first prime-time television movie about the life of a Special Olympics athlete. 

May 2000

The first-ever Global Athlete Congress takes place in The Hague, Netherlands. Special Olympics athletes from every region of the world come together to discuss the future of the Special Olympics movement. Despite differences in language, culture, age and gender they hold discussions, challenge existing ideas and vote on new resolutions. 

July 19th-20th 2002

The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund partners with Special Olympics to host an annual birthday celebration for its founder and chairperson, President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, and helps Special Olympics launch its Unified Sports® program in South Africa. 

June 21st-29th 2003

Ireland hosts the first Special Olympics World Summer Games held outside of the United States. With 5,500 athletes participating, it is Ireland's largest sporting event of the year, capturing the hearts and imaginations of an entire nation. 

October 30th 2004

U.S. President George W. Bush signs the "Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act", which authorizes $15 million per year over five years to fund the growth of Special Olympics and support initiatives that foster greater respect and understanding for people with intellectual disabilities. The signing of the bill marks the first time that Special Olympics secures support through legislation.

October 2nd-11th 2007

The city of Shanghai, China, hosts the 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games, which are broadcast internationally on an unprecedented scale. These Games, with more than 7,500 athletes from 164 countries participating, are a major milestone in Special Olympics' history. 

May 2009

The U.S. National Portrait Gallery unveils a portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shriver,  the founder of Special Olympics. It is the first portrait the Gallery has ever commissioned of an individual who has not served as a U.S. President or First Lady. 

August 11th 2009

Special Olympics mourns the loss of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver who died surrounded by her family in Massachusetts. Letters and messages celebrating her contribution to humanity pour in from world leaders and everyday people around the world. 

September 6th 2013

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics announce a two-year global initiative that will leverage the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance. This effort will unite people with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) through Special Olympics Unified Sports. 

July 25th 2015

The Golisano Foundation announces a $25 million gift to expand the reach and impact of Special Olympics global health program - the largest single donation ever received by Special Olympics. This is in addition to Tom Golisano's previous gift of $12 million, announced in 2012.

July 2017

New census numbers show that Special Olympics' reach has expanded to more than 5.7 million athletes and Unified partners - a new global record. Athletes in 172 countries took part in more than 108,000 games and competitions. 

July 2018

Special Olympics launches global year-long 50th Anniversary celebrations, starting in Chicago and continuing around the world! 




Celebrate Special Olympics 50th Anniversary with a donation of $50 or more and receive a commemorative, limited edition 50th Anniversary Gold Pin OR Gold Coin as a "thank you"!
To make a donation, please click here.