Special Olympics started with backyard summer camp in 1962

Before it became the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics was a summer camp in the backyard of President John F. Kennedy’s sister’s house.

As detailed in the ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts documentary Brave in the Attempt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Camp Shriver on her Maryland farm in 1962. About 50 young people with intellectual disabilities and 50 high school volunteers participated in the first Camp Shriver.

The day camp lasted for four years at the farm known as Timberlawn, but its popularity caught on and led to the development of a global movement that today boasts more than 4.5 million athletes. The ESPN documentary, directed by Fritz Mitchell and narrated by actor Jon Hamm, debuted on the cable sports channel on Sunday to coincide with the start of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

Check out the documentary embedded below or watch it on Grantland.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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