It was on this day, July 20, in 1968, that the first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago. The event, conceived by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, had been years in the making. As TIME explained in Shriver’s 2009 obituary:

The first Special Olympics hosted 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada. In the years that followed, the event achieved greater recognition from the Olympic Committee and from athletes and advocates around the world, and it expanded to include winter events as well. By 2006, by the sponsoring organization’s official count, there were 2.5 million participating Special Olympics athletes worldwide.

Read a 1987 report from the Special Olympics, here in the TIME Vault: Heroism, Hugs and Laughter

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