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Joe Paterno Death: Penn State Coach's Legacy Lives On Through Special Olympics Donations

Joe Paterno

First Posted: 01/24/2012 1:49 pm Updated: 01/24/2012 1:49 pm

Three days of public memorial events for Joe Paterno will begin Tuesday afternoon, and mourners will have the chance to make sure the famed coach's mission to give lives on.

The legacy of Paterno -- who passed away Sunday from lung cancer -- was inarguably tainted by his association with the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, but his family hopes that his commitment to helping athletes with disabilities will be remembered. The Paternos have asked mourners to donate to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, in lieu of sending flowers or gifts PennLive.com reports.

"His legacy for many will revolve around his achievements as a legendary football coach, but we will remember him as well for his more than 20 years of support and love for Special Olympics athletes," the organization wrote on its website. "With the passing of Joe Paterno our athletes have lost a true friend."

Over the years, Paterno's contributions helped provide Olympic sporting opportunities to the nonprofit's 20,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and he and his wife, Sue, were inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame in 2008.

One local Pennsylvania business, Bleacher Bums, is perpetuating Paterno's mission to help athletes with disabilities by selling Joe Paterno commemorative T-shirts, and giving $5 for each shirt sold to the Special Olympics, WHPTV reports.

Paterno spread his charitable giving among his beloved causes throughout his career, giving $4 million to Penn State for scholarships, endowed faculty positions and assorted building projects and donating more than $100,000 to the university just weeks before he died, according to Pennlive.com.

"Throughout his entire life, he's always done what he believed was right given the facts that he had in front of him at the time," Paterno's son, Jay, told "The Today Show" Tuesday.

To make a donation to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania in Joe Paterno's memory, click here .

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Filed by Emily Heinz  |