Juli surrounded by her friends

Outdoor Idaho: “Let Me Be Brave” chronicles the experience of four area athletes as they prepare for and compete in the Special Olympics World Winter Games, held in Idaho in February, 2009. The Games were the largest sporting event ever held in Idaho.

Sarajevo was the original host, but when that city pulled out, supporters in Idaho decided to bid for the Games. After winning the bid, they had only two years instead of four to put together the event, which included seven events spread out over six venues.

The economic recession forced organizers to ask for governmental support from Congress and the Idaho legislature. In the end, the Games received Congressional appropriations of $10.1 million and an Idaho legislative appropriation of $3 million, along with private and in-kind donations totaling at least $28 million.

Kirk Miles, Vice President of the World Winter Games, said the public monies were essential to the success of the event, and were less than what other countries spend to subsidize their Games. Listen to his commentsWindows Media icon

Eventually, more than 2,000 athletes from 95 countries would make their way to Idaho, with a staff of 60 and 4,000 volunteers working to make their visit as fun and life-changing as possible. CEO Tim Shriver welcomed the participants at the opening ceremonies in Nampa, Idaho. Listen to his opening commentsWindows Media icon

One unique component of the event was the more than 50,000 blue and white scarves knitted by supporters all over the country to give out to athletes and volunteers.

The Special Olympics movement was started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of John, Bobby and Ted Kennedy. Another sibling, Rosemarie, had been born intellectually challenged. After a failed lobotomy, she had to be institutionalized, but Eunice took up the cause of other people like Rosemarie, so that they could lead fuller lives.

A lifelong athlete, Eunice felt that sports could provide a bridge between the disabled and non-disabled. She started a summer camp for mentally disabled children at her home outside of Washington, DC, and then expanded the program into what is now the Special Olympics.

Not many people attended the first Games, held in Chicago in 1968. Now, thousands attend the World Games, and millions more around the world participate in ongoing events put on by local affiliates such as Special Olympics Idaho.