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Special Olympics began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldiers Field in Chicago, Ill. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Mrs. Shriver incorporated sports in day camps that she held for people with intellectual disabilities. She saw that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought.

Since the first Games in 1968, millions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities have participated in Special Olympics. In North Carolina, the first SONC Summer Games were held in 1970 in Burlington and 400 athletes competed. In 1974, the Games were hosted in the Triangle for the first time in Special Olympics history with 1,335 athletes competing at NC State University and Meredith College in Raleigh .

Currently, all 50 US states and more than 160 nations around the world are a part of the Special Olympics movement, which serves more than 2.5 million people with intellectual disabilities. In North Carolina, Special Olympics Programs exist in just about every community in the state reaching more than 38,000 athletes.
 

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