Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 1921-2009

Eunice Kennedy Shriver died today.

Life for a person with developmental disability has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Eunice Shriver was a key player in that change, spurred by her love for her older sister Rosemary.

According to USA Today:

Rosemary, born with mental retardation made worse by a surgical lobotomy, spent most of her adult life at a private institution in Wisconsin and died in 2005. Shriver devoted much of her energies to countering the social stigma once attached to mental disabilities.

"If I (had) never met Rosemary, never known anything about handicapped children, how would I have ever found out? Because nobody accepted them anyplace," she told National Public Radio in 2007.

In 1956, she became executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, which helped fund Catholic organizations and those that benefited the mentally retarded. In 1962, she opened her Maryland estate to a summer camp for mentally retarded children.

In July 1968, just weeks after Robert Kennedy was killed, about 1,000 people from 26 U.S. states and Canada participated in the first Special Olympics at Soldier Field in Chicago. Shriver persuaded Chicago officials to join with the Kennedy Foundation to sponsor it.

Today, the organization says it serves almost 3 million children in 180 countries.

Unlike other members of her Democratic clan, she remained opposed to legalized abortion and was a longtime supporter of the group Feminists for Life.

[ read the rest ]

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