Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver died early Tuesday morning at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass.

The sister of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is widely credited with changing perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities.

Shriver, 88, was surrounded by her husband and five children at 2 a.m. when she died. She reportedly experienced a series of strokes in recent years and had been in critical condition for several days.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Shriver is best know for founding the Special Olympics in 1968, a movement inspired in part by her sister Rosemary who had an intellectual disability and died in 2005. It grew out of a summer camp Shriver hosted at her home for children with disabilities.

Since the first Special Olympics was held in Chicago in 1968, the organization grew to include over 3 million athletes in 175 countries and helped generations of people recognize what those with disabilities are capable of, despite their challenges.

“She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more,” Shriver’s family said in a statement. “She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy.”

Shriver’s son Tim now chairs the Special Olympics. Another son, Anthony, chairs Best Buddies, a group which connects people with intellectual disabilities with their typically developing peers. Meanwhile, Shriver’s daughter Maria, a former television reporter, is married to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Upon learning of Shriver’s death, President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to the family. “Above all, she will be remembered as the founder of the Special Olympics, as a champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and as an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation — and our world — that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit,” he said in a statement.