Special Olympics CEO helps honor Mosaic's century of dedication to disabled - Omaha.com
Published Friday, October 25, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:52 am
Special Olympics CEO helps honor Mosaic's century of dedication to disabled

Someone was missing from the iconic family photo following the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960.

Rosemary Kennedy, the president's intellectually challenged sister, was all but forgotten in the moment of triumph.

Though Rosemary was loved by the family and well cared for, the Kennedys did not know how to talk about her to the public, said Timothy Shriver, her nephew and CEO of the Special Olympics.

Such was the stigma of intellectual disabilities at the time, Shriver said, even for such a prominent family.

Shriver was the keynote speaker Thursday night at Mosaic's Centennial Gala at the Mutual of Omaha Dome. His mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics, and he is the current chairman and CEO.

Shriver said Mosaic, an organization dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities, was an extraordinary thing when it was founded in 1913.

“If you think about a nonprofit spending 100 years serving the most vulnerable of society, in times when no one else cared, you have to think there were some angels involved,” he said.

Shriver, 54, said the “dignity revolution” has come a long way since those with intellectual disabilities were casually labeled as “idiots.”

The Mosaics of the world, he said, work tirelessly to provide resources to cultivate the strengths and talents of the intellectually disabled.

The Special Olympics serves more than 4 million athletes in 170 countries, and Omaha-based Mosaic has inspired projects as far away as the United Kingdom.

But the dignity revolution is a work in progress. Shriver cited cases like 5-year-old Amelia Rivera, who was denied a kidney transplant solely because of a genetic condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome.

Such situations show us that “we have a long ways to go,” Shriver said.

He said he trusts the next generation to guide Mosaic's next 100 years.

“If we invest, train and have confidence in our youth, we can change even more dramatically than we have in the past 100 years,” he said.

It takes a community, he said, to accept and affirm parents' belief that their child can grow, learn and thrive.

Mosaic's community is what made the gala a gratifying experience for Paul Tamisiea, whose daughter Annie has lived on the group's Axtell, Neb., campus for 32 years.

Tamisiea said he was overwhelmed by the support for Mosaic and believes it will continue to thrive.

“Mosaic is Omaha's best kept secret,” Tamisiea said. “We'd like to see them consistently stay in the game.”

Shriver said supporting the most vulnerable is essential to growing a more whole community.

“In our encounters, relationships, openness to people we judge, even though we try not to, we will be constantly challenged to heal the boundaries we place between ourselves and others,” he said.

Contact the writer: Anna Gronewold

Anna.Gronewold@owh.com    |  

Anna is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln fellow who writes for news.

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