Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

[editor’s note: This evening, University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Elizabeth “Betsy” Hearne will be presenting "Children's Books, Oral Lore, and the Playful Imagination.” This is the inaugural David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess lecture. The program begins at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium with a reception in the Clarke to follow. Please see this link for more information about the Clarke Historical Library Speaker Series.] 

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

by Lindsay Gabriel and Bryan Whitledge

This month is the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics Michigan having its headquarters on the Central campus. In addition, October is Disability Awareness Month and this is the perfect time to reflect on the four-decades-long relationship between Special Olympics and the University.

After a long personal history of advocacy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. Since then, Special Olympics has blossomed and today there are more than 3.7 million athletes from over 170 countries around the World. In Michigan, CMU was selected in October of 1972 to become the home of Special Olympics Michigan, the state-specific Special Olympics program. The CMU community immediately embraced the opportunities presented by having Special Olympics as a member of the community. For the first State Games held at CMU in June of 1973, 1,600 athletes participated and more than 200 individuals volunteered, many of them CMU students.

Soon after this inaugural statewide effort, CMU was invited to enter a bid for hosting the world games – the only university invited to do so for these games. Shortly after the 1974 state games in June, which saw even more participation and a greater volunteer effort, CMU was named as the site of the 1975 International Special Olympics (the three previous sites were Chicago, 1968, 1970; and Los Angeles, 1972).

Ever since the first competition in 1973, thousands of Michigan athletes with disabilities make their way to Mount Pleasant every year to participate in the Special Olympic State Games. Many of the documents about Special Olympics and CMU are part of the archives maintained by the Clarke Historical Library. Newspapers, administrative reports, photographs, correspondence, and memoranda relating to the founding of Special Olympics Michigan, the landmark Fourth International Special Olympics Summer Games, and the ongoing activities of Special Olympics Michigan can all be found in the Clarke. The Clarke Historical Library takes great pleasure in sharing with you the rich history of disability awareness at CMU.

If you are interested in this history, the Clarke Historical Library will be one of many organizations participating in the disABILTY Awareness Expo. The event will be held in the Education and Human Services Buildings this Saturday (October 13) from 10 am to 2 pm. Throughout the month of October, CMU has many events planned. A full list of events is available here via this link (this link is for a PDF).