Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by Special Olympics New Jersey.
On Monday, Oct. 15, Special Olympics New Jersey welcomed Mark Shriver to its Sports Complex in Lawrence Township for An Evening of Honor, paying tribute to the late Sargent Shriver and celebrating the release of Mark’s book A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.
Sargent Shriver has been recognized as one of the greatest Americans of our time, creating the Peace Corps and leading the War on Poverty, including the development of Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Legal Services and Foster Grandparents. He was instrumental in the global expansion of the Special Olympics movement in the 1980s and '90s.
The evening began with a book signing by Mark Shriver, who currently serves as Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs at Save the Children. Copies of A Good Man were generously donated by the Coca-Cola Company, a founding partner of Special Olympics, and were given to all Special Olympics New Jersey athletes and families in attendance.
Immediately following the book signing, guests were invited to witness the dedication of the “Sargent Shriver Gymnasium” at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Sports & Training Center, housed at the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex on Princess Road in Lawrence.
Thirteen Sargent Shriver Global Messengers joined together to read an excerpt from a statement Sargent Shriver penned when he was 87 years old, which begins with, “I am a man who was born and tried to live committed to being open to all people, no matter their differences.”
An emotional Mark Shriver addressed the crowd, saying, “My father would have loved tonight. He really would have. I feel like his presence is here…all the things he loved in life are right here in this room.” He went on to share personal stories of his late father, specifically the importance of faith and committing acts of love.
The Global Messengers presented Mark Shriver with a donation to the Peace Corps in Sargent Shriver’s memory and in return, Mark Shriver presented the Global Messengers with commemorative pieces of the gymnasium floor.
A Unified basketball game was the first event held in the newly-dedicated gymnasium, bringing together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities in the spirit of sport. To start the game, Mark Shriver reenacted the famous ball toss his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, executed at the 2007 opening of the Special Olympics New Jersey sports facility named in her honor.
It was the vision of the Shrivers that all individuals with intellectual disabilities be afforded opportunities for acceptance and inclusion, specifically on the playing field. College students from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey turned Unified basketball into a sports club on campus after a successful inauguration of the program last spring, and they joined in the first game last night.
This gymnasium dedication is the very first recognition of its kind, honoring Sargent Shriver for his contribution to Special Olympics. The building itself had previously been dedicated in 2007 to Sargent Shriver’s wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, as she is the founder of the Special Olympics movement worldwide. Special Olympics New Jersey is the first accredited Special Olympics program to name sports facilities after both Eunice and Sargent Shriver.
Special Olympics New Jersey provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic-type sports for more than 22,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, completely free of charge, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Visit www.sonj.org for more information.