Thank You, Eunice Kennedy Shriver
I just returned from the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens (as a guest of long-time Special Olympics sponsor P&G) watching meets and medal ceremonies with an ultimate goal of bringing attention to this world-class event and the families involved in the Special Olympics movement which overall doesn’t get as much mainstream media coverage as it deserves.
Deservedly, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver is much talked about here at the games. It is clear that her physical presence is missed. This is the first World Games that both she and her husband, Robert “Sargent” Shriver, have not attended (they both died within the past two years).
But it is also clear that Mrs. Shriver’s tenacious spirit is alive and omnipresent.
During the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Summer Games a touching dedication was made to Mrs. Shriver. It was then that we all learned that the name Eunice “EYNIKH” (ef-ni-ki) translated in Greek means “good victory.” How fitting!
However according to Mrs. Shriver’s daughter, Maria, her mother “was never one to rest on her victories” as she was always encouraging those she met to do more, constantly enlisting people in the Special Olympics movement.
Special Olympics originally started in Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s backyard as a summer day camp for children with intellectual disabilities. As daughter Maria tells the story, Eunice Kennedy Shriver had seen her own mother, Rose, struggle with her sister Rosemary for places to go, to have her educated, and to have her play, and thus she started an organization where other mothers could go to so that their children could explore their capabilities through play and competition.
On Sunday there was a beautiful dedication ceremony of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Park in Athens, Greece. The park is marked with a marble monument engraved with “EYNIKH.”
Maria gave a profound tribute to her mom, concluding that Eunice and Athena are one and the same:
Mummy would be thrilled that this park is in Athens because it’s named after the Goddess Athena. As we all know, the Goddess Athena is the goddess of wisdom, but she is never depicted without her shield and without her helmet because she is a warrior. At heart, she is a warrior. As every woman knows, you have to be both. You have to know when to be wise. You have to know when to be compassionate. And you have to know when to put on your helmet, take out your spear, put on your shield and go to war — and fight for what you believe in. And Mummy was, at her heart, a warrior. She woke up every day and fought for people with intellectual disabilities. These are the first games that our parents have not been at. I was thinking last night [at the Opening Ceremony] how incredibly proud she would have been to see all of those athletes, all of those coaches, all of those volunteers. Because she always believed that the success of this movement was based on the people who volunteered…she believed in the spirit of volunteerism and the power of volunteerism. If she were here, she would look at every woman here and say that you can change the world…and to never doubt that you can.
Here is a video of Maria’s very touching speech of her trailblazing mom.
Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver for starting a powerful movement.
This post has been sponsored by Procter & Gamble as part of their Thank You, Mom program. My trip to Athens and accommodations there were provided for by P&G. My opinions are my own and I think P&G is the bee’s knees for supporting Special Olympics.
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All photos courtesy of Special Olympics photo stream on Flickr.Published June 29, 2011. Last updated June 30, 2011.