Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver will be posthumously honored Wednesday night with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2017 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
Former first lady Michelle Obama will present the award to Shriver’s son, Timothy Shriver, who chairs the Special Olympics, which is the world’s largest sports organization for those with intellectual disabilities. More than 5.3 million athletes participate in Special Olympics events yearly.
The Arthur Ashe Award goes to those “whose contributions transcend sports.”
“Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a passionate champion for those with developmental challenges, empowering them to fulfill their highest potential,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement. “Her work to promote inclusion and acceptance transformed the lives of countless young athletes and inspired us all. I am incredibly honored to present this award to her son to celebrate her life’s work.”
Shriver started the Special Olympics as a summer camp in 1962 after being inspired by her sister who had intellectual disabilities. The two girls bonded through sports while growing up, and Shriver believed others with intellectual disabilities should have the opportunity to be included.
Shriver passed in 2009, but she has long been recognized as a major force in unifying the world and promoting inclusion.
“Finally, to the athletes. I say to you that within these walls, there is light; your light,” she said at the 1991 Special Olympics Games. “And we see for an instant what life on this earth might be. That we could help each other, that we could have victories without victims, that there could be peace. All this we see through you because you are the peacemakers.
Here’s more on Shriver’s influence from Special Olympics Southern California: