Newsmakers Making A Difference: Special Olympics

Mike Krauser
June 15, 2018 - 11:11 am

Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children's Charities/Facebook

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Special Olympics started 50 years ago in Chicago with 1,000 athletes at Soldier Field.  It’s a Newsmaker, Making a Difference.

The idea behind Special Olympics came from a young Chicago Park District PE teacher, Anne Burke, who would later go on to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court.

It was 1968. 

“I think it was really about recreation and sports, that they really wanted to show people their abilities versus their disabilities," said Dave Breen, President and CEO of Special Olympics Illinois. “And the interesting thing is back then people really thought that Justice Burke was exploiting individuals.”

Burke sought funding for the inaugural event and visited Eunice Kennedy Schriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy.

Schriver would take over the event and make it global.

Breen said today, “it’s 5.5 million athletes worldwide, 172 countries, but it’s still very much a grass-roots movement.”  

A long way, he said, in a relatively short period of time.

“I think the impact that it’s had on health, now Special Olympics is the number one health organization in the world, besides the sports, allowing the athletes to advocate for their abilities and to show people that they can be leaders and they can have jobs, that’s not how it started.”

As WBBM celebrates its 50th anniversary as Newsradio, this year we’ll be honoring 50 Newsmakers making a difference in the community.  Listen for reports each Tuesday.

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