It was with profound sadness that I received the news of the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics and helped to change the world for people with mental and developmental disabilities.
Mrs. Shriver launched the Special Olympics in 1968 from her Maryland home to a small crowd of 100 people who came to watch 1,000 athletes, at which time she predicted that a million people would one day gather and compete. Today, the Special Olympics has over 3 million athletes worldwide that compete in over 30 sporting events and has millions of people watch them including the U.S. Virgin Islands where in 2007 the 30th Annual Special Olympics were held in the VI.
I worked with Mrs. Shriver on both the Special Olympics here in the Virgin Islands and together with Mrs. Shriver launched the V.I. Chapter of Camp Shriver, which provides intellectually challenged children and adults with an opportunity to participate in sports training and social skills development.
I had the honor of meeting her two years ago when she was kind enough to open her home to me to discuss Special Olympics and Camp Shriver. I was so impressed not only with her vast knowledge of the world but her passion and compassion for the less fortunate.
There are very few individuals in the world who actually make a difference in the lives of millions of people, Mrs. Shriver was one of those individuals, she was a lioness and a legend.
A statement from the Shriver family was released that stated, “Inspired by her love of God, her devotion to her family, and her relentless belief in the dignity and worth of every human life, she worked without ceasing – searching, pushing, demanding, hoping for change. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy.”
My husband, Governor John P. deJongh, noted that Mrs. Shriver not only believed in service above self but she also lived it. Mrs. Shriver was a warm, loving matriarch of her family and our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to her family at this time of loss.
Editor’s note: Cecile R. de Jongh is the first lady of the Virgin Islands, wife of Gov. John P. de Jongh.