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Special Olympics: 50th Anniversary


In June 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver – sister of brother Knight and President John F. Kennedy – held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her backyard. She was inspired to do something for this group of children after seeing limited opportunities for them to participate in athletic events. This was the revolutionary moment that eventually led to the first International Special Olympics Summer Games at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 20, 1968 – 50 years ago today – where about 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada competed.

Since the first games, the Knights of Columbus have been there. Here are the highlights of the 50 year history between the Knights and Special Olympics:

Founding members of the Special Olympics were associated with the Knights of Columbus

  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s brother, John F. Kennedy, was a Knight. Her husband, Sargent Shriver, was also a Knight. He was a member of the Mater Dei Council 9774 in Rockville, Md.

The Knights have raised and donated more than $600 million to the Special Olympics

  • The Knights of Columbus has collected and given more than $600 million to programs for people with intellectual and physical disabilities, with the Special Olympics being among the largest benefactors.

The Knights of Columbus has pledged to expand the Special Olympics

  • In 2005, the Knights of Columbus pledged to raise $1 million in a four year period to help grow the Special Olympics in North America. The Order also pledged increased volunteer support for state and local games, as well as help to expand the program to underserved countries. The Knights of Columbus has subsequently extended that commitment through 2016.

The Knights donated $1.4 million for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles

  • The Knights of Columbus donated $1.4 million to cover the costs of athletes from the United States and Canada who travelled to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Since 2014, Brother Knights have spent almost 4 million volunteer hours toward Special Olympics events

  • In 2014, the Knights of Columbus spent a more than 800,000 volunteer hours. Every year since, the hours have increased. This past year, volunteer hours surpassed 1 million. In total, brother Knights spent 3,836,255 hours with the athletes. As Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stated, “We are leading the way not only in donating money, but in donating our personal time and effort.”

Visit the Special Olympics website to find out how you can help today! Also, visit kofc.org to learn more about the Knights of Columbus!

Happy 50 years to the Special Olympics!