Be more Eunice! How the founder of the Special Olympics movement is an inspiration to us all.

Actions often speak louder than words. Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver recognized this more than most and devoted herself to adjusting the world’s attitude towards people with intellectual disabilities.

January 17, 2019
January 17, 2019

Be more Eunice!

How the founder of the Special Olympics movement is an inspiration to us all.

Actions often speak louder than words.

Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver recognized this more than most and devoted herself to adjusting the world’s attitude towards people with intellectual disabilities.

A member of arguably America’s most famous political dynasty, she engaged powerbrokers and transformed the family’s charitable foundation into an engine of social change. 50 years on from launching the Special Olympics – her pioneering mission to unite all through sports – 7,000 athletes from around the planet are preparing to travel to Abu Dhabi.

What began as a backyard gathering endures as an epic global sporting event – and March 14-21 will see the UAE host the most unified Games yet.

Close to home

Eunice – sister of former US President John F. Kennedy – championed the better treatment of people with intellectual disabilities.

Her campaign began at home, inspired by passion for sport and her elder sister, Rosemary, who experienced intellectual disability.

They played sports together growing up. But, in the late 1950s, Eunice recognised how people like Rosemary were routinely excluded, regardless of talents they might have to offer.

Eunice went on to become a college athlete - and realised that sport could unite all people.

A quest for equality

Eunice believes that given the same opportunities, people of determination could flourish too.

She demonstrated this in 1962, inviting children to a summer day camp to explore their skills through various physical activities and sports.

Six years after ‘Camp Shriver’, the first Special Olympics proved to the world how sport empowered kids with intellectual disabilities to “realise their potential for growth”.

Today her vision thrives through Special Olympics International, a movement serving 4.7m-plus people with intellectual disabilities.

Thousands of them - from 192 nations – will provide a powerful showcase of her greatest legacy by lighting up the world’s biggest sports and humanitarian event of 2019.

Did you know…

This will be the first Special Olympics World Games held in the Middle East and North Africa.

Young Saudi Arabian females will compete for the first time.

For three days before the opening ceremony, UAE locations will host athletes and their families for fun, inclusive cultural events - the Host Town programme will engage people unable to catch the Games with its stars.

How to ‘be more Eunice’

You don’t have to be an athlete – or even a spectator – to take part in the Games.

And you too can be a trailblazer like Eunice, backing the event, where the action is - by volunteering and helping make it happen in the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.

If one of your New Year resolutions was to help others more, look no further.

Abu Dhabi will break the record for most participating nations: 192. Competitors will tackle 24 sports.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Volunteers may not have a shot at the podium, but it’s crucial to the Games.

Abu Dhabi has already tasted what’s to come by successfully delivering the Special Olympics IX MENA Games last year.

It hosted 1,000-plus competitors from 31 countries, aided by 3,000 volunteers – all ages, numerous nationalities – giving 50,000 hours of their time. Many have been inspired to return as ‘pioneers’. The core of the volunteer team, they’ll serve as ambassadors/advocates for the Games - and they’ll need many more colleagues.

With volunteers expected from across the globe, it’s a unique chance to be on the frontline as a friendly face of the UAE, promoting the Special Olympics values: inclusivity, unity and respect.

Just saying…

With 20,000 volunteers expected, this will be the largest voluntary work programme ever held in the UAE

They’re needed for hundreds of jobs in nine operational areas, including guest services, translation, event management, medical services, transportation and communication

A Leadership Academy will give specialized training to Volunteer Leaders responsible for the oversight and operation of significant functions leading up to the event

As Eunice once said: “You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.”

Nearly 10 years after her passing, few would disagree with that. Here’s a chance to be better to yourself - better to others.

And to be a bit more Eunice.

To volunteer, visit www.abudhabi2019.org or www.volunteers.ae/specialolympics