BARNSTABLE, Mass. – Well wishes from Special Olympians and their families have poured in for founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who remained in critical condition Sunday at Cape Cod Hospital.
The younger sister of John F. Kennedy has been weakened in recent years by a series of strokes. She lives in Hyannis Port, near the family compound where her brother, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, has been staying as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer.
The 88-year-old Shriver organized the first Special Olympics in 1968, inspired in part by the struggles of her mentally disabled sister, Rosemary.
Cards, calls and e-mails from across the globe for Shriver show just how many lives have been affected by her work on behalf of people with mental disabilities, Special Olympics spokeswoman Kirsten Seckler said.
“We’ve been forwarding all of the comments and e-mails and everything to (the family),” Seckler said. “They are overwhelmed with the amount of support.”
Many of the messages are being posted on a tribute wall at EuniceKennedyShriver.org.
One of them reads: “Thank you so much. Because of you people like me are seen as valued not as incapable.”
The first Special Olympics in Chicago was a two-day event that drew more than 1,000 participants from 26 states and Canada. The 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai involved more than 7,500 athletes from 164 countries.
“It’s probably the most tangible piece of her legacy,” Seckler said. “But her legacy is what she has been able to do to change the world for people with intellectual disabilities. Her work has led to a new way of thinking for people to accept, include and see the value of people with intellectual disabilities.”
Shriver is the fifth of nine Kennedy children. Edward Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith are her sole surviving siblings.