How the Special Olympics Began

Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver was influenced by the Churchs teaching that all humans are created in the image of God.


John Stonestreet

Kasey Leander

This June, the 2023 Special Olympics World Games were held in Berlin, Germany. Some 7,000 athletes from 170 countries took part in the annual celebration of people with disabilities, people often dehumanized and marginalized.  

The Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. She was inspired by her sister Rosemary, who lived with intellectual disabilities her entire life. Shriver started the first special Olympics in 1962 as a summer camp in her backyard. The competition grew, and her efforts earned her admiration and the honor of the Presidential Medal of Freedom 

Some years ago, New York Times opinion writer Ross Douthat described Shriver as a “different kind of liberal,” who “saw a continuity, rather than a contradiction, between championing the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed and protecting unborn human life.” That consistency, he thought, was in large part due to her upbringing in the Church, specifically what she learned there: that all people are made by God in His image. 


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