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History of Special Olympics

Special Olympics Inc. was established in December 1968 as a non-profit organization to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and foster increased understanding and integration of people with intellectual disabilities in the general community. But it’s history began in 1946 when the Kennedy family founded the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation to honor the memory of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., who was killed in World War II.

The Kennedy Foundation's mission was and is to learn how to prevent intellectual disabilities and to improve society’s treatment of people with intellectual disabilities.

In the 1950s, the foundation developed a grant program to improve care for people with intellectual disabilities. Yet Eunice and Sargent Shriver learned on a fact-finding tour of the United States that people with intellectual disabilities had the greatest unmet needs in all of the nation’s health care delivery systems.

In 1963, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a summer day camp for 100 local children and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home in Rockville, MD. The day camp’s program successfully demonstrated that people with intellectual disabilities not only participate in a wide variety of recreational experiences but also benefit from the experience. As a result, the Foundation awarded more than 80 small grants to public and private organizations in the U.S. and Canada to enable them to create and administer day camps for people with intellectual disabilities in their communities.

Special Olympics Hawaii was established in 1968. SOHI receives no funding from the Kennedy Foundation. All money raised in Hawaii stays in Hawaii to establish and maintain programs for thousands of people with intellectual disabilities throughout the state.



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