Help us make a difference!


Our Athletes

Athletes are the heart of Special Olympics. Our athletes are children and adults with intellectual disabilities from all around the world. They are finding success, joy and friendship as part of our global community. They're also having lots of fun! 

Members of the female football team from SO Bahamas rush in for hugs after a victory

Be a Fan of Joy. Trenice Bell gives a victory hug to Shaniqua Newbold as more teammates rush in to celebrate. The moment came after a Team Bahamas win at the Special Olympics Jamaica Football Invitational Competition.

Who Are Our Athletes?

Everybody is different. Special Olympics is for people who are different because they learn new skills slowly. They may not understand ideas that other people learn easily. They are different in other ways as well. They have an intellectual disability, or ID.

Intellectual disabilities happen in all cultures, races and countries. The goal of Special Olympics is to reach out to the 200 million people in the world with ID.

Our more than 4.4 million Special Olympics athletes – ages 8 years old and up -- come from more than 170 countries. We also have a Young Athletes program for children ages 2 to 7.

At any age and in every country, our athletes are learning new skills, making new friends and gaining in fitness and confidence.


About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

Everyday, Everywhere

Special Olympics trainings and competitions happen 365 days a year in more than 170 countries.

We offer 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports. So whatever your age or skill level, Special Olympics has something for you. Many athletes start in one sport, then go on to try others.

Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities. Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding.They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments. They are also making new friends, as part of the most inclusive community on the planet -- a global community that is growing every day.

Abdel-Raman Hassan is an athlete whose life changed after he joined Special Olympics. He's a swimmer with ID from Saudi Arabia. He is also partially paralyzed. Yet he doesn't let anything -- or anyone -- put limits on his abilities.  

His talent for swimming did not come naturally or easily. Abdel-Raman's father says it took him a month to hold his breath underwater for three seconds. It took him a year to swim a distance of one meter. He did not give up. Abdel-Raman went on to win gold medals in 25- and 50-meter races at World Summer Games. He is a champion.


Not Alone

What is it like having ID? David Egan of Virginia says it can be difficult, but that joining Special Olympics helped him a lot. “It was hard for me to accept the fact that I have Down syndrome. But it became easier when I joined Special Olympics and I discovered that I was not alone.”

Over the years, David has taken part in soccer (football), basketball, ice skating, softball and swimming. He says the confidence he built through Special Olympics has helped him find and keep a job for the last 15 years.

From Athletes to Leaders

Through sports training and competitions, Special Olympics helps people with ID find joy, acceptance and success. As their lives open up, athletes gain the confidence that comes with achievement. They feel empowered. They are ready to take on new challenges to make use of their new abilities.

They can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson. They can speak to audiences and journalists about the positive changes that Special Olympics helped bring about in their lives. (Read more about our International Global Messengers from around the world here.)

At Special Olympics, our athletes are empowered to share their many gifts and talents with society. Yet, it's more than that. Our athletes also become empowered to be leaders in society -- and teach us all about acceptance and understanding. (Learn more about Special Olympics Athlete Leadership programs here.)

Stories Written by Special Olympics Athletes


April 21, 2015 | North America: New York

Perseverance is the key to your future.

By Jean Daly

I remember I use to be a peer mediator who helps children and your classmates who are sad, crying or not being their usual. So one day this girl was crying and she said she was getting bullied.View Story I remember I use to be a peer mediator who helps children and your classmates who are sad, crying or not being their usual. So one day this girl was crying and she said she was getting bullied. Then she was crying hysterically. I grabbed napkins and wiped her face. She said no one likes her and she doesn't think she is special to be on this world. She said she wanted to kill herself. Then i said you are special. Your mom and dad made you because you are special. You have a mission on earth to accomplish and that is making your parents proud and living your life. As i continued i also said not everyone is perfect but you need to have perseverance. And people called her names such as retarded and everything thing else. I told it is not what people see you physically they need to know your inside who you really are. As i continued a tear fell from my eyes, saying you are a beautiful young woman and ignore what people say because you are special and God created for this reason.

About Jean Daly:Well i am jean daly and i am a female 11 yrs of age in 7th grade at cunningham IS234 and i like sports like i am athletic. I am a fun person ilke to make jokes because i like to smiles on people face.
Share
View less ▲

April 21, 2015 | North America: Iowa

i thought the letter r stood for racism.

By chelsea

yay

i realize it does not.. but i support ridding of both r words.View Story i realize it does not.. but i support ridding of both r words.

About chelsea:I love all people.
Share
View less ▲

April 15, 2015 | North America: Northern California

Jose Ayala goes to 2015 Special Olymipcs World Games from the Napa Valley California

By Jose Ayala / wit a little help from his teacher Loretta....

I started participating in Special Olympics when I attended Napa High School. I am going to the post secondary program Transition 3 at NVUSD. I have been chosen to go to the World Games in LA this summer.View Story I started participating in Special Olympics when I attended Napa High School. I am going to the post secondary program Transition 3 at NVUSD. I have been chosen to go to the World Games in LA this summer. I will be competing on the Track Team. I will be on a relay team, the 100 dash, and maybe the 200 dash. Not sure... I will be carrying the Olympic Torch throughout the Napa Valley on July 23. I will start in Calistoga with the law enformcement agencies representing the The World Famous Napa Valley. I am so proud to be the representative of our local community. I want to thank my coach Gary McGuire for believing in me. I am a true athelete and am so excited to attend this special event. Hope to see you all there this coming summer, Jose Ayala

About Jose Ayala / wit a little help from his teacher Loretta....:I just want to thank-you for letting me participate in the Special Olympics, and I am training 6 days a week with my coach Gray McGuire.
Share
View less ▲

April 01, 2015 | North America: Southern California

im a high function young adult with special needs

By Nicole

Hi my name is Nicole and I am a swimmer with Special Olympics and I think that people should stop saying the R word in their vocabulary. It hurts the feelings of people with disabilities.View Story Hi my name is Nicole and I am a swimmer with Special Olympics and I think that people should stop saying the R word in their vocabulary. It hurts the feelings of people with disabilities. I think the R word is very disrespectful and it puts children with special needs down and people make fun of us and it's not our fault that we're slower than other people and people who do not have special needs should stick up for us. I think children with special needs are a gift from God and He loves all people.

About Nicole :I said it all in my story
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: Texas

people saying the rword

By bridgette

Well my story begins when i was a freshman in high school and all the time i would hear people say the r-word and it would drive me crazy so i decided to join meet in the middle to stop the r-word cause everyone needs respectView Story Well my story begins when i was a freshman in high school and all the time i would hear people say the r-word and it would drive me crazy so i decided to join meet in the middle to stop the r-word cause everyone needs respect

About bridgette:hi i am Bridgette Thomas and i am a Meet in the Middle Member and a Special Olympics athlete for Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz Texas
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: Washington

Why I Love Special Olympics

By Michelle Jorgensen

I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!View Story I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!

About Michelle Jorgensen :
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: New York

Getting Ready For Regional Games Here in Rochester

By GERIRICE

I would like to go to Summer State Games, and next year I want to go to World Games. I have never been there at all. Now also, OK, and this is something I really want there right now. By the way, this is important too for my coaches.View Story I would like to go to Summer State Games, and next year I want to go to World Games. I have never been there at all. Now also, OK, and this is something I really want there right now. By the way, this is important too for my coaches.

About GERIRICE:I am a special athlete here in Rochester and I wan tto make it to all of the gmaes here. And that is what I am going to towards.
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: South Carolina

Derrick

By derrick

My name is Derrick Fahnestock. I am 33 years old. I live in North Myrtle Beach, SC. I am here to end the r word.View Story My name is Derrick Fahnestock. I am 33 years old. I live in North Myrtle Beach, SC. I am here to end the r word.

About derrick:
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: Northern California

A team that shows the having the R-word out of picture really helps the athletes

By erika bruhns

Team Oakland swimming is one place where athletes can really fee like they belong because the coaches’ turn over is really low and we have some really good coaches that really care and really know what they are doing.View Story Team Oakland swimming is one place where athletes can really fee like they belong because the coaches’ turn over is really low and we have some really good coaches that really care and really know what they are doing. The two head coaches have been there for a long time and they really know how to train new coaches. I think having a no r-word at all at this team really helps the athletes grow and the coaches bring out the best in each swimmer. Having the coaches let me take my time really helps me and I can be myself. Team Oakland is a role model of how not having the r word present really helps the athletes out.

About erika bruhns:I have being part of team Oakland swimming for 4 years now. I been also do basketball , soccer , and softball too. I Fell like team Oakland swimming should be known because it a good role model when it comes to stopping the r word.
Share
View less ▲

March 29, 2015 | North America: Southern California

I Have Been A Victim Of This ''word." Have You ?

By Chey

It's hurtful and makes me feel bad. It's disrespectful and can make people do harm. People can be seriously hurt by this word. I feel this campaign has a strong meaning to it. So i want to be a part of this by helping. Spread the word to end the word. X out the old R_word and put the NEW and improved one in: Respect.View Story It's hurtful and makes me feel bad. It's disrespectful and can make people do harm. People can be seriously hurt by this word. I feel this campaign has a strong meaning to it. So i want to be a part of this by helping. Spread the word to end the word. X out the old R_word and put the NEW and improved one in: Respect.

About Chey:I love sports, sometimes people make fun of me because that's what I'm passionate about. I love hanging with friends and skateboarding.But anyways i want to help by Spreading The Word To End The word!
Share
View less ▲

Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

Help us reach out to one more athlete.

Donate »

Find events near you and learn about volunteer opportunities at one of our 226 worldwide locations.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU »

Our Supporters

MicrosoftRevolutionizing information systems that power our games.Learn more »


Our Supporters

Toys“R”UsHelping children of all abilities experience #MyFirstSportsMomentLearn More »


Our Supporters

The Christmas Records TrustFunding Special Olympics work worldwide.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Annenberg FoundationSupports our goals for coaches’ excellence.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Bank of AmericaProud partner of Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Coca-ColaSpecial Olympics Founding Partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

ESPNGlobal Presenting Sponsor of Unified Sports®.Learn More »


Our Supporters

EssilorOfficial global supplier of ophthalmic lenses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

AIPSGlobal Impact Partner for Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Lions ClubSupports access to quality eye care.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MattelSupports Special Olympics Youth Programs.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MTM RecognitionSupplier of awards and medals for our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Perfect Sense DigitalSpecial Olympics' leading digital partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Procter & GambleCelebrating over 30 years of partnership with Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SafewayRaises funds and awareness for people with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SàfiloSupplies optical frames and sunglasses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

UNICEFProvides greater inclusion of children with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Y&RPowering our global youth marketing campaign.Learn more »


Special Olympics Blog

Jean Vanier, a prophet of humility and simplicity, wins!

Today, the Templeton Foundation gave its most prestigious award to my hero, Jean Vanier.  For Linda and our children and me, he has also been our retreat leader, our teacher of humility, our guide. 

read more »

Posted on 2015-03-11 by Tim

go to blog »


*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan