Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 88, died Tuesday morning in the U.S. state of Massachusetts after a series of strokes. She was the fifth of nine children, including the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. She was founder of the Special Olympics, which she created in 1968 to benefit mentally disabled children.
Many credit Eunice Kennedy Shriver with changing the way the world thinks about people with mental disabilities.
"Don't keep them away from something that can change their lives and give them a new vision and give their parents a new vision of them," she says, "just because they don't want someone in the community to say, 'oh your child is special.'"
In 1968, Shriver created the Special Olympics, a sports organization that benefits mentally disabled children. Her efforts were inspired by the struggles of her mentally disabled sister, Rosemary.
As the fifth of nine children in the powerful political Kennedy dynasty, Shriver was no stranger to tragedy. Her brother, the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Another brother, Bobby, was assassinated in 1968 during his presidential campaign.
Other well-known family members include her brother Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts who is currently battling brain cancer, and her son-in-law, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, married to her daughter Maria Shriver.
"The best mother-in-law, best mother-in-law in the world, thank you!" Schwarzenegger said.
A family statement said her life taught what it means to live a "faith-driven life of love and service to others."
"Let us not forget that we have miles to go to overturn the prejudice and oppression facing the world's 180 million citizens with intellectual disabilities," Shriver said.
Today, more than three million Special Olympic athletes are training year-round in all 50 U.S. states and 150 countries.