The following is an excerpt from the article titled Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Legacy written by Renee Dease, Healthy Athletes Coordinator at Special Olympics, and published by Exceptional Parent Magazine.
As the world celebrates what would have been Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s 100th birthday on 10 July 2021, I reflect on my dear mentor and friend. Mrs. Shriver—which is what I will always call her—is most famous for founding Special Olympics and is widely known as the younger sister of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. She was highly educated, receiving her degree in sociology from Stanford University. Following her graduation, Mrs. Shriver worked in government and as a social worker in adult and youth settings. She made an impression on countless people, and the world mourned her when she passed away on 11 August 2009. What some people may not know is how her life’s work continues to transform the public health arena for people with intellectual disabilities.
I first met Mrs. Shriver when she brought me on board as a receptionist at Special Olympics in 1978. She was an influence in my life for over 30 years, continuously pushing me to be the best version of myself, from teaching me to study and achieve my education, to advising me on raising my own daughter. Today, I am one of the very few current Special Olympics employees to have known Mrs. Shriver, both on a personal and professional level. She was a strong, willful, and candid leader. But to me, and to others with intellectual disabilities, Mrs. Shriver was caring, attentive, and softhearted. No matter what important issues Mrs. Shriver had going on in her life, she always took time to sit down and listen to me. She valued my opinion, and when we first began to work together, she sought my insight into the creation of various Special Olympics programs.