One of the most memorable moments from West Virginia's Centennial celebration in 1963 was the rainy speech President John F. Kennedy gave, telling West Virginians that even though the sun may not always shine in their state, they always did.
Shades of that appearance will be on many West Virginians' minds this week when Mark Kennedy Shriver visits Wheeling to speak as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration.
"I am so honored to be in Wheeling to celebrate the 150th anniversary of West Virginia's statehood," Shriver said in a prepared statement. "My uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was in West Virginia 50 years ago for the 100th anniversary celebration.
"Although I was not alive at the time, my parents, aunts and uncle often spoke about the special relationship between Uncle Jack – indeed, the entire Kennedy family – and the Mountain State."
Shriver is senior vice president for strategic initiatives and senior advisor to the CEO at Save the Children. He focuses on advancing the right of every child to have a safe and vibrant childhood, and he works to make children at home and abroad a national priority.
He joined Save the Children in 2003, and its programs expanded to 220 schools in 17 states, benefiting 165,000 children, including more than 400 children at four Head Start centers.
He helped to convince Congress to create the National Commission on Children and Disasters in 2005, and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., appointed him to the Commission where his fellow commissioners named him its chairman.
Shriver also has a background in politics, having served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994-2002. He and his wife, Jeanne, along with their three children live in Bethesda, Md.
Shriver's own West Virginia connection was solidified a few years ago when he visited with Save the Children.
"I've had a pretty good relationship with him over the last few years and I had the opportunity to meet him through his work with the Save the Children Foundation," explained Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, who arranged for Shriver's visit.
"He and Jennifer Garner came to West Virginia a few years ago to try to get some funding assistance and a match through a philanthropic program to address childhood illiteracy and healthy choice initiatives that have been successfully implemented in five of our state's counties – Cabell, Clay, Mason, Roane and McDowell."
Shriver said he was "especially proud" to be in West Virginia among its greatest champions for poor children.
Kessler said more than 4,000 children in West Virginia have been helped through Save the Children. He's hopeful that combined with the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty, which was started in the 2013 regular legislative session, even more children will be helped early in their lives to try to break the cycle of poverty.
"I think that is an important message, and it goes hand-in-hand with what we're doing," Kessler said.