My Father donated too many charities in his life. While he was suffering with Alzheimer's and anyone who knows someone suffering with this horrible disease knows there are some very good days when you would never guess the person had it and then there are the bad days when they have no clue what planet they are on. So it was on one of his good days that I asked him "Out of the hundreds of charities you have given to in your life. If you had to choose only one. Which one would you give your support to" Without hesitation his reply was. "Those Special Olympic kids. I love their enthusiasm and the look of sheer joy on their faces as they compete. Win or lose, they are always happy for each other and all who are around them and those who love support them". Those words never left me and I mentioned them to a friend of mine Mr. Glenn MacDonell the President and CEO of Special Olympics Ontario.
In 1962 Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a camp called Camp Shriver for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Potomac Maryland. She started the camp out of concern that children with this type of disability had nowhere to play and that they could benefit from sports activities.
Using Camp Shriver as an example, she promoted the concept of physical activity and other opportunities for them. Camp Shriver became an annual event at the Kennedy Foundation in 1957.
In 1958 Dr. James N Oliver of England pioneered research in a ground breaking study showing that physical exercise and activities by children with intellectual disabilities had positive effects that carried into the classroom.
In 1964 research by Dr. Frank Hayden a Canadian physical education professor from London Ontario Canada had shown that a person with intellectual disabilities can and should participate in physical exercise.
With the help of a local school that offered space in its gym. It became one of the first organized sports programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in July 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. About 1500 athletes from the United States and Canada took part in the one day event which was a joint venture by the Kennedy Foundation and the Chicago Park District.
Today because of ordinary people like my Father and you. Special Olympics has served over 4,532,335 athletes with volunteers that number 1,482,126 in 170 countries around the world.