Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
1995 Special Olympics Commemorative Silver Dollar
Hi, everyone! It's me, Plinky. For June, I have a very special coin about very special Olympic games...and how they got started in June.
It was in June of 1963 that Eunice Kennedy Shriver opened a summer day camp for children and grownups "with mental retardation"—that means they don't learn as quickly or as much as most people do. Ms. Shriver's family was very interested in making life better for them. And they were the kind of people for whom the Special Olympic games were created.
As you may know, the Olympic Games are events where athletes from many lands try to be the best at their sports. The three athletes with the highest scores in each sport get medals. The Special Olympics is the same kind of event.
Two years after Ms. Shriver's summer camp opened, Anne Burke held the first Special Olympics in Chicago, and it was a great success. Then Ms. Shriver helped the Special Olympics to become an international event in July of 1968.
Mental retardation can make it very hard for people to take part in these games, but still they came. One thousand of these special athletes from 26 states and Canada came to the first World Games at Chicago's Soldier Field. They competed in track and field, floor hockey, and aquatics (water sports).
And boy, has the Special Olympics grown since then! More than 150 countries and all 50 states now have Special Olympics programs, and more programs are forming all the time.
It was in 1995 that Ms. Shriver's work was honored on a silver dollar, our coin of the month.