Tim doesn't specifically remember that weekend in Chicago when the Games began, but what he vividly recalls are summer mornings at Timberlawn, the family's home in Rockville, Md. when he'd look out of his bedroom window and see ponies and balloons and clowns and kids running and laughing on the huge expanse of lawn. That was Camp Shriver, which Eunice started in 1962 to give intellectually challenged boys and girls a place to have fun. "My parents were more example people than adage people," says Tim. "We were told to do a lot of things--get off our rear end, don't watch television, don't be arrogant, don't waste your time--but the whole issue of being engaged in some kind of socially meaningful work came from seeing it and having fun with it. They were great at making important things fun."
By that time Eunice was already firmly committed to improving the lives of the intellectually challenged, in no small part because her older sister, Rosemary, had "a mild form of mental retardation," in the parlance of the day. She was lobotomized in 1941 and afterward spent most of her life in an institution in Wisconsin. (She died in 2005.)
Eunice was a good athlete (her favorite sports were swimming, sailing, and, of course, touch football, the Kennedy ancestral game) and she was frustrated by the dearth of athletic opportunities afforded women in the 1930s and '40s. At the same time, she saw how much worse it was for the intellectually challenged in a society that rarely educated citizens with such conditions, much less thought about organizing them into athletic competitions. So Eunice did what Kennedys do: She made some noise and moved around the furniture.
"When I've talked to her about it, the word she comes to is 'anger,'" says Tim of the wellspring of his mother's activism. "She is really tough and ambitious and strong-willed, but she also has this vulnerable and empathic side. After watching the struggles of her sister and visiting institutions and seeing this enormous amount of human suffering, and at the same time coming from a place where women didn't have equal opportunity in sports, she just couldn't take it anymore."
Eunice began by using funds from the Kennedy Foundation (started by her father, Joseph, and mother, Rose) to create programs for the intellectually disabled. Then she instituted Camp Shriver and helped finance a dozen or so other such camps around the country. One day in 1967 she listened to a plan from the Chicago parks and recreation department to hold a track meet for the city's kids with intellectual disabilities--Anne Burke, then a teacher in the Parks system, now an Illinois Supreme Court judge, was the moving force behind the idea--and turned on the Kennedy magic, providing $25,000 in funding and insisting that kids from all over the country be involved. And with the Games in Chicago in 1968, the movement was on.