50 Years of Special Olympics

The Special Olympics celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer here in Chicago. From July 17th to the 21st, 2018, the international sporting event for people with intellectual disabilities returns to the Windy City, where it was born in the Chicago Park District (CPD) in 1968.

In 1965, a young CPD employee named Anne Burke began teaching athletic courses to children with intellectual disabilities. Burke would eventually become an Illinois Supreme Court Justice, but at the time, her work with and advocacy for people with disabilities ended up fostering a partnership between CPD and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Kennedy Foundation to fund programs and, ultimately, competitions for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The Kennedy Foundation went on to administer the Special Olympics in subsequent years, but CPD continued to develop its programming for people with disabilities throughout the city. CPD has consistently hosted local and state level sporting events for Special Olympians of all ages. And Chicago, with CPD as a leading partner, has hosted several other international Special Olympic events, including the second Games in 1970. Take a look at our gallery above of Special Olympics athletes competing at CPD locations throughout the years. And visit Special Collections to see even more CPD photographs of Special Olympics events.

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