Correction to This Article
In a photo caption with a July 11 Style article, the boy identified as Aaron Ciaravino was actually Aaron Hyndman.

Going the Distance

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By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Last night, Eunice Kennedy Shriver got the black-tie White House dinner treatment -- specifically for the creation of Special Olympics -- on the occasion of her 85th birthday.

At the dinner for about 130 people, President Bush lauded Shriver's creation of the organization. "If you ever had any doubt about how much good one person can do," he said, "look no further than this kind and gracious lady."

Yesterday morning, Shriver played soccer with a bunch of kids in her back yard in 80-degree heat.

Yes, she had a minor stroke last year and there is a wheelchair in the foyer of her house -- but the only ones using it now are her grandchildren, who like to take it for a spin around the first floor (and occasionally out the front door). She's got a volleyball net out back, a kickball field, a makeshift basketball court set up on her private tennis courts. This is all a part of "Camp Shriver" -- the one-week sports camp for the intellectually disabled that Shriver likes to run on her exceedingly large lawn in Potomac. The staff includes college and high school students from all over the area, but also Shriver herself (she's partial to getting into the pool for swim instruction and joining the soccer matches) and her grandkids, who are expected to be up and out early and running laps like everyone else. There are no ifs, ands or buts when it comes to Grandma.

"I'm going to give a speech at the White House tonight," Shriver says to the 40-plus kids from this area as they gather for the camp's opening day, "and it's going to be about you!"

Public perception paints the Kennedy women of Shriver's generation as being secondary to their famous siblings or husbands. But family lore has it that Jack -- aka John F. Kennedy -- used to joke that, had it been another era, Eunice would have been the one to make it to the White House.

And, in her own way, she has.

* * *

The Shriver home on River Road feels like a Kennedy family museum. The walls, the tables, the hallways are covered in photographs and memorabilia of American political royalty. Their own family snapshots -- Shriver with her husband, Sargent, and their five children -- Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony -- and 16 grandchildren. Candid photographs of her famous brothers.

The newspaper from the day Maria's husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was elected governor of California; a copy of her brother Jack's inaugural address and a framed portrait from his swearing-in, titled "Camelot at First Moment" and letters he wrote to their parents from boarding school. And a painting of her brother, Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr., in uniform, before he died in World War II.

Mixed in with all these items of historical import are pictures of Shriver with nearly every president since Lyndon Johnson and with Nelson Mandela in Africa. There is a snapshot of her with her beloved sister, Rosemary, three years her elder, whose struggle with mental disabilities inspired Eunice's work.

Among the commendations and letters citing a lifetime of public service, on a shelf next to the mantel, are his-and-hers Presidential Medals of Freedom -- Eunice's awarded in 1984, a decade before the one for her celebrated husband, who founded the Peace Corps and created Head Start to aid in early childhood education.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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