A Letter from Special Olympics Latin America

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SO Latin America Pays Tribute to Mrs. Shriver

Panama, August 12 2009

The passing of our Founder, Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, brings much sorrow across our Latin American region. Athletes, their families and coaches, government leaders and sponsors, and countless volunteers who have come to know and experience the power of the Special Olympics movement, today

pay special tribute to the woman who had the courage to defy the experts four decades ago and stepped forward on behalf of all persons with intellectual disability around the globe.

What Mrs. Shriver accomplished was nothing short of a miracle! She shared her vision that persons with intellectual disability have enormous talents and abilities to a world of skeptics and then created Special Olympics training programs and competitions for our athletes to showcase their talents and abilities.

She created a movement that is athlete and family centered and organized by volunteers, rather than creating a government-funded sports program.

She called upon us to improve upon coaches' education and certification to ensure that all athletes are able to train with the best and achieve their maximum potential.

She created a concept of divisioning that is truly unique in the world of sports competitions, allowing every athlete the opportunity to compete with other athletes of equal ability and qualify for higher levels of competitions.

She challenged our schools to help change attitudes among our youth by bringing together regular students and students with intellectual disability through Unified Sports and other school-based programs.

She recognized that a vast majority of persons with intellectual disability do not have access to medical care and services and she called upon the medical profession to step forward. Today thousands of volunteer medical professionals are offering Healthy Athletes screenings and referrals to tens of thousands of athletes around the globe.

And she challenged our athletes to become leaders within our movement and within their communities. Across Latin America, thousands of athletes are today serving as members of their National Boards, as global Messengers, as Assistant Coaches and Officials and as volunteers.

Today we salute the remarkable vision, drive and determination of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She can be proud of what she has achieved in so short of time and she can be assured that the Special Olympics movement now has a STRONG foundation of acceptance and support from our athletes, their families and

coaches, government leaders and sponsors, and countless volunteers. Much work still needs to be done. We are confident that her vision will guide future generations to continue supporting a truly grass-roots movement that is changing the world, Special Olympics.

Dennis Brueggemann

Managing Director

Special Olympics Latin America