About the Author: Erica Thibault serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas.“Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love.” - Eunice Kennedy Shriver
U.S. Embassy Nassau, Special Olympics-Bahamas and more than 150 Special Olympic athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters came together on September 25 to honor the founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, through an afternoon of games and dancing on the front lawn of the residence of the U.S. Ambassador, Nicole A. Avant. Eunice K. Shriver was a leader who broke down barriers to improve the lives of millions of people with intellectual disabilities, as well as their families' lives and their communities, for over five decades. Although she passed away on August 11, 2009, her legacy lives on through the continued growth of the Special Olympic movement and the annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day celebrations that take place around the world.
There are currently over 400 Special Olympic athletes from The Bahamas and scores of local volunteers and financial supporters who assist these inspirational athletes in realizing their dreams. The Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Honorable Hubert A. Ingraham, officially recognized Special Olympics-Bahamas' impact on the community by issuing an official proclamation declaring September 25, 2010, to be "EKS Day" across The Bahamas. This proclamation was the driving force behind Saturday's celebration hosted by U.S. Ambassador Nicole A. Avant and her husband, Ted Sarandos, at their Liberty Overlook home. Eunice K. Shriver's granddaughters, Eunice and Francesca Shriver, along with representatives from Best Buddies International, a global non-profit that creates opportunities for integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, traveled to The Bahamas to take part in the event, meet with athletes and personally thank the people of The Bahamas for embracing the movement.
U.S. Ambassador Nicole A. Avant is a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics and Best Buddies because she believes both organizations are committed to expanding the possibilities of people with intellectual disabilities, which fuels hope in all of us to make a difference. "I'm so proud that I have the opportunity to honor Shriver's legacy by recreating a mini 'Camp Shriver' on my front lawn," she said. “The Special Olympics' annual EKS Day teaches us that differences are to be celebrated and appreciated and that every individual is entitled to dignity."
Shriver launched a movement that inspired generations of people with intellectual disabilities to “play on” and become agents of acceptance and action in their communities. Shriver convened the first Special Olympic Games in Chicago on July 20, 1968, only seven weeks after her younger brother, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated in Los Angeles. In front of a crowd of fewer than 100 people, 1,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities marched in the opening ceremonies and joined Mrs. Shriver as she recited what continues to be the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Today, more than three million Special Olympics athletes are training year-round in all 50 states in the United States and in more than 185 countries.
EKS Day is celebrated each year to inspire new fans to embrace the movement. It is a global call for inclusion, acceptance, and unity for and with individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics-Bahamas' National Chairman Basil Christie believes that The Bahamas is a better place because the Special Olympics is active here. "The courage, determination and the motivation to excel displayed by Special Olympics athletes inspires our community -- young and old alike -- to adapt to a new attitude of ‘yes I can'. We owe it all to Eunice Kennedy Shriver because the spirit of self-worth generated by these athletes has positively changed the lives of thousands around the world."
For more information on Eunice K. Shriver's life and the Special Olympics movement, please visit www.eunicekennedyshriver.org.