Special Olympics Exhibit Case
Jaclyn Nash/Jaclyn Nash, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Exhibit

The Smithsonian Institution honored the 50th anniversary with a “Special Olympics at 50” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The installation celebrated the history of our movement and highlighted the lives and contributions of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and four athletes who participated in the Games over the decades.

A large case placed near the National Mall entrance included the following archival items:

  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s clipboard and hat from the 1988 Special Olympics annual conference and a pennant from the first international games. The display featured 1960s-era training manuals used at Camp Shriver, the innovative summer camp for young people with intellectual disabilities held in Eunice Kennedy Shriver's backyard. These training manuals were donated to Special Olympics by longtime Camp Shriver counselors Ann Hammerbacher Buell and Mary Hammerbacher Manner.
  • Marty Sheets’ (1953–2015) ski hat and competition bib from the first Special Olympics International Winter Games in Colorado in 1977.
  • Lee Dockins’ leotard from the 2007 World Summer Games in China and leather grips.
  • Ricardo Thornton’s jersey from a Special Olympics D.C. race and medal from the USA National Games in Nebraska in 2010.
  • Loretta Claiborne’s T-shirt from the 1972 International World Summer Games and a torch carried at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles.

Marty Sheets

When Marty was 15, the Kennedy Foundation provided local Parks and Recreation Department funds to develop recreational activities for children with intellectual disabilities. Marty was already an avid swimmer, and in 1968 he and four other athletes were selected to represent North Carolina and the USA in the first international Special Olympics Games in Chicago, Ill. Over the years, Marty became a highly decorated Special Olympics athlete, winning 250 medals—including seven at World Games. In addition to swimming, he competed in golf, powerlifting, tennis and skiing.

Lee Dockins

Born with Down syndrome, Lee has been competing since she was 8 years old and has earned more than 150 medals, including seven gold. At the 2015 World Games, she earned gold medals in balance beam, floor and all-around, a bronze medal for uneven bars and a fourth-place ribbon on vault. She also made Sports Illustrated’s Special Olympics feature pages.

Ricardo Thornton

Ricardo was abandoned as a child and spent his first decades at Forest Haven, Washington, D.C.’s institution for people with intellectual disabilities – an institution he later helped shut down. As a youngster, he became a Special Olympics athlete and he began to see he could be successful in all walks of life. Over the years, Ricardo has competed in sports such as tennis, bowling, basketball, volleyball, bocce, and track & field. This husband, father and grandfather continues to serve as a Special Olympics spokesperson today.

Loretta Claiborne

Loretta is one of the most accomplished and celebrated Special Olympics athletes. She has competed in more than 26 marathons, finishing in the top 25 fastest women runners in the Pittsburgh Marathon and twice in the top-100 runners in the Boston Marathon. She won gold medals in the 1991 and 1999 Special Olympics World Games half-marathon. Loretta holds honorary doctorates from Villanova University and Quinnipiac College, speaks five languages, earned a black belt in karate, and was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. She is a member of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.