A Letter from Donna de VaronaSports broadcaster and Olympics Swimming Gold Medalist

I first met Eunice when I was a college student. She was looking for someone to help her figure out how to improve on the Special Olympics swimming program. Problematic during the inaugural 1968 Special Olympics Games, Eunice sought me out after learning that I had spent most of that summer conducting swimming clinics in the riot torn inter-cities of America. It was a turbulent time, a time of highs and lows when hope, doubt and fear were all mixed in together.

My generation, eager to take part in the remaking of America sought out those who inspired and motivated us. For me that person is Eunice Kennedy Shriver. A phone call and an invitation to join Eunice in Hyannis Port began what has become a life long dialogue in how to make the Special Olympics better. It is a journey that has no end. Eunice thank you for sharing your vision, your dedication, your passion. These qualities, so freely given are a gift to all of us. You have opened the eyes of millions to the possibility of the human spirit. You have done this as a leader, mentor, wife, Mother and Friend. I share in the joy of celebrating you for all that you have done for so many.

Affectionately Donna de Varona

About Donna de Varona

Donna De Varona, an Olympic swimmer and gold medalist rejoins the International Board of Directors and is currently serving as a member of the Sports sub-committee of the New York City Urban Initiative Advisory Committee, charged with developing and delivering innovative urban programs that will increase awareness and enhance the overall penetration of Special Olympics in New York City. As an Olympic athlete, De Varona was the youngest swimmer to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympics, and in the 1964 Olympics she won gold medals in the 400 meter individual medley and as a member of the 400 meter freestyle relay. De Varona has been a significant and powerful force in the fight for equal rights for women. She broke a gender barrier in 1965 when she signed a contract with ABC and became the first female sportscaster in television history.