By Nicole Forgione, Contributor

Kennedy family portrait, circa late 1930s.

Kennedy family portrait, circa late 1930s.

Is there an athletic program for children and adults with disabilities to compete in? Is there a national program to help people with disabilities express themselves through artwork? Is there an organization focused on friendship that fund-raises to help families with a loved who has an intellectual disability?

If it was not for members of the Kennedy and Shriver family, the answers to these questions may be no. Instead, the answers are: Special Olympics, VSA, and Best Buddies.

In the upcoming year, a book published by the Museum of disABILITY History and People Inc. through the People Ink Press will focus on the accomplishments of members of the Kennedy and Shriver family. Each chapter will focus on an individual family member starting with husband and wife Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy—followed by their eldest daughter Rosemary.

Rosemary is viewed as the unifying force in the family’s commitment to issues related to disabilities.

The book follows the Kennedy family tree highlighting specific accomplishments of family members focusing on the field of intellectual disabilities.

“Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love.” – Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Key members and their advocacy include:

John F. Kennedy, Sr.: Implemented the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The mission is to provide advice and assistance to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on a broad range of topics that impact people with intellectual disabilities and the field of intellectual disabilities.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver: Founder of the Special Olympics. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, 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.

Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy: As a long-time advocate, he supported legislation to serve the underserved, including those with disabilities. He partnered with elected officials and organizations to implement numerous disability rights and laws.

Jean Kennedy Smith: Founder of  VSA – The International Organization on Arts and Disability. The goal is to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.

The book, a work in progress, concludes with a chapter called, “The Kennedy’s and Shriver’s: The Next Generation.” The advocacy of the family, past and present, continues with: Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr., Robert Sergeant Shriver III, Maria Shriver, Timothy P. Shriver, Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver, Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy Jr.

Notably, Timothy is the current chairman and chief executive officer of the Special Olympics.

Best Buddies, founded by Anthony, is an organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

These are some of the ways that the Kennedy and Shriver family members have advocated for families and individuals with intellectual disabilities. With a common goal – the family helps to see the abilities and traits of a champion in all people.