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Happy birthday
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 06 - 2006

AYMAN Abdel-Wahab, Special Olympics managing director of the Middle East and North Africa region, has invited all 26,197 Special Olympics athletes of the MENA region to celebrate the 85th birthday of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics founder and honorary chair, on 10 July 2006. Abeer Anwar reports.
"Mrs Eunice Kennedy Shriver devoted her life to the intellectually disabled and she will appreciate that all athletes from all over the world join in celebrating her 85th birthday," Abdel-Wahab said.
Special Olympics is marking the occasion by presenting Eunice Shriver with an album and birthday wishes from Special Olympics families. As executive vice president of the Joseph P Kennedy Jr Foundation and honorary chairwoman of Special Olympics, Shriver has been a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve and enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than three decades.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the fifth of nine children of Joseph P and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Shriver received a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Following graduation, she worked for the US State Department in the Special War Problems Division. In 1950, she became a social worker at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, and the following year moved to Chicago to work with the House of the Good Shepherd and the Chicago Juvenile Court. In 1957, Shriver took over the direction of the Joseph P Kennedy Jr Foundation.
The foundation, established in 1946 as a memorial to Joseph P Kennedy Jr, the family's eldest son who was killed in World War II, has two major objectives: to seek the prevention of intellectual disabilities by identifying its causes, and to improve the means by which society deals with citizens who have intellectual disabilities.
Under Shriver's leadership, the foundation has helped achieve many significant advances, including the establishment of the President Kennedy Committee on Mental Retardation in 1961; development of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in 1962; the establishment of a network of university-affiliated facilities and mental retardation research centres at major medical schools across the United States in 1967; the establishment of Special Olympics in 1968; the creation of major centres for the study of medical ethics at Harvard and Georgetown Universities in 1971; the creation of the "Community of Caring" concept for the reduction of intellectual disabilities among babies of teenagers in 1981; the institution of 16 "Community of Caring" model centres in 1982; and the establishment of "Community of Caring" programmes in 450 public and private schools from 1990-1997.
Recognised throughout the world for her efforts on behalf of persons with intellectual disabilities, Shriver has received a plethora of honors and awards: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Legion of Honor, the Priz de la Couronne Francaise, the Mary Lasker Award, the Philip Murray-William Green Award (presented to Eunice and Sargent Shriver by the AFL-CIO), the AAMD Humanitarian Award, the NRPAS National Volunteer Service Award, the Laetare Medal of the University of Notre Dame, the Order of the Smile of Polish Children, the Laureus Sports Award, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Theodore Roosevelt Award, and the International Olympic Committee Award.
Her honorary degrees have been presented by Yale University, the College of the Holy Cross, Princeton University, Regis College, Manhattanville College, Newton College, Brescia College, Central Michigan University, University of Vermont, Albertus Magnus College, Cardinal Strich University, Georgetown University and Marymount University.
On 24 March 1984, US President Reagan awarded Shriver the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, for her work on behalf of persons with intellectual disabilities. In 2005 she was honored for her work with Special Olympics as one of the first recipients of a sidewalk medallion on The Extra Mile Point of Light Pathway in Washington DC.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver is married to Sargent Shriver. The Shrivers have five children -- Robert Sargent Shriver III, Maria Owings Shriver Schwarzenegger, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver.
Shriver once said people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable than commonly believed and deserved the same opportunities and experiences as others. In June 1962, she invited 35 boys and girls with intellectual disabilities to Camp Shriver, a day camp at Timberlawn, her home in Rockville, Maryland, to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities.
Even before Camp Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver already had a long-standing commitment to people with intellectual disabilities. She was instrumental in focusing the Joseph P Kennedy Jr Foundation on improving the way society deals with its citizens with intellectual disabilities, and helping identify and disseminate ways to prevent the causes of intellectual disabilities.
Shriver is executive vice president of the foundation, which was established in 1946 by her father and mother, Ambassador and Mrs Joseph P Kennedy, to honour their eldest son who was killed in World War II.
Using Camp Shriver as an example, Shriver promoted the concept of involvement in physical activity and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Camp Shriver became an annual event, and the Kennedy Foundation gave grants to universities, recreation departments and community centres. In 1963, the foundation supported 11 similar camps around the United States. By 1969, the foundation supported 32 camps across the country that served 10,000 children with intellectual disabilities. The movement grew beyond the Kennedy Foundation, and between 1963 and 1968, more than 300 camps similar to Camp Shriver were started.

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