The ESPYs Will Honor Her Contribution To Sports, But More Than One Person Wins In The Process

All abilities should have a chance to compete.

In the world of sports, Eunice Kennedy Shriver should be considered as one of the greats. She never scored a game-winning shot or created a championship winning team in professional sports. However, her name represents more than winning and decades of hard work for athletes who would have been overlooked. What started out originally as a camp in the backyard of a Maryland farm would soon become one of the most recognized sports events for athletes with various abilities: the Special Olympics. As the founder of such a polarizing idea, she'll finally get the attention and acclaim that she rightfully deserves. 

Later this summer, Shriver will posthumously receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 25th ESPYs for her work in creating the Special Olympics, an international competition that now attracts over 5.3 million differently abled athletes with annually since its inaugural year in 1968. There have been several groundbreaking athletes who have been honored with this award in the past for their major contributions that transcend sports, including Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Valvano, Caitlyn Jenner, and, most recently, Zaevion Dobson. Timothy Shriver, one of Eunice's children, will be accepting the award for the family. 



"My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was a visionary, but, more importantly, a revolutionary," said Timothy in a press release. "Fueled by love and anger, she used sport to break down the barriers, she used fields of play to bring people together, and she opened the doors of inclusion and equality to the most marginalized on earth. It is now up to all of us to follow the athletes of Special Olympics who can teach us all to accept and include each other."

Courtesy Special Olympics
Courtesy Special Olympics

As stated before, Eunice Shriver's Special Olympics organization has helped break boundaries for differently abled athletes for decades, but her journey didn't start during the event's first outing in Chicago's Soldier Field in 1968. Her sister Rosemary Shriver had learning disabilities, and Eunice was aware of what people with disabilities could gain — and give — to the world of sports. With a need for better programs for people with functional needs, Eunice opened Camp Shriver, a camp originally held in the middle of a farm in Bethesda, Md, which evolved into the Special Olympics, an impactful competition that still has close relations to that connection Eunice had with Rosemary had when they were young.

With more than 50 years of dedicated work to celebrating the sportsmanship and competition among these individuals, July 12 will be the night that spotlights the long fight for such a unique and diverse community. Eunice Shriver's honorary award is not only an award for her work in creating the Special Olympics but a victory for a community that's usually overlooked.