On Saturday over 3,000 athletes descended upon Lincoln, Nebraska—many on loaned private planes—so they can compete in this week’s 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. There these athletes will participate in 13 Olympic-style sports from track and field, basketball and bowling to tennis, bocce ball and softball.
That’s a far cry from the event’s early beginnings, when in 1962 Eunice Kennedy Shriver invited 35 boys and girls with intellectual disabilities to Camp Shriver, a day camp at her home in Maryland.
By 1969, The Kennedy Foundation supported 32 camps around the country that served 10,000 children with intellectual disabilities. Today, the Special Olympics run summer and winter games on four year intervals, similar to the International Olympic Games that were held in Vancouver this past winter and China in 2008.
Opening ceremonies were held yesterday and athletes will participate in events through the closing ceremony on Friday evening. New to the games this year is a Special Olympics Town where the community is invited to participate with athletes in a number of activities including sports demonstrations, live music and healthy living presentations.
The Special Olympics National Games take nearly 8,000 volunteers to make them successful. Those volunteers have reported that it has been one of their most rewarding and inspirational experiences to participate or watch the athletes compete. You can learn more about the games at http://www.2010specialolympics.org.