ESPYs: Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Be Posthumously Awarded to Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Eunice Kennedy Shriver - Women's Conference 2007 - Getty - H 2017
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

A renowned advocate for children’s health and disability issues, Shriver, who died in 2009, created the Special Olympics as a global movement to empower disabled individuals.

The ESPYs will posthumously award this year's Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, it was announced Tuesday.

A renowned advocate for children’s health and disability issues, Shriver created the Special Olympics as a global movement to empower disabled individuals. Throughout her life, Shriver worked diligently to ensure that the rights of those with intellectual disabilities are acknowledged and accepted. She died in 2009 at the age of 88. 

Of selecting Shriver to receive this award, ESPY's executive producer Maura Mandt said, “The effort that Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her family have been displaying for these past five decades is truly remarkable. We are honored to celebrate Eunice’s work and the bravery of the athletes of Special Olympics, whose efforts and performances are as inspiring as any of those we celebrate on this show. It’s stories like this one that show what The ESPYs are really about."

Connor Schell, ESPN senior vp and executive producer, original content, who oversees The ESPYs said, "Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s legacy is remarkable, far-reaching and still growing. As a proud global supporter of Special Olympics for over 35 years, ESPN has had the privilege of showcasing a small slice of her work to fans and families around the world, allowing many of us to witness firsthand the incredible impact she has had on millions of people."

Timothy Shriver, one of Shriver’s five children and current chairman of the Special Olympics, will be on hand to accept the award on his mother’s behalf.

On behalf of his family and the Special Olympics, Shriver feels great pride in accepting his late mother’s upcoming honor.

"My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was a visionary, but, more importantly, a revolutionary," Shriver said in a statement. "Fueled by love and anger, she used sport to break down the barriers, she used fields of play to bring people together, and she opened the doors of inclusion and equality to the most marginalized on earth. It is now up to all of us to follow the athletes of Special Olympics who can teach us all to accept and include each other."

While growing up alongside her intellectually disabled sister, Rosemary, Shriver noticed the lack of programs and health options available for those dealing with the same struggles as her sister. Using her bonding experiences of playing sports with Rosemary, Shriver developed Camp Shriver, a summer day camp that eventually morphed into what would become the Special Olympics.

The first Special Olympics took place in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, where 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada competed. Today, the Special Olympics has grown to a year-round event, including more than 5.3 million competing athletes from 170 countries and more than 1 million volunteers and coaches partaking. The Special Olympics hosts more than 32 Olympic-based sports and 108,000 competitions.

The 25th annual ESPYs will be hosted by five-time NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning. The ceremony will air live from Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 12, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.