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Our Families

Families are the No. 1 fans of our Special Olympics athletes. They give the type of love, support and encouragement that no one else can. Special Olympics is a support network that brings families together in a caring, positive way -- and that makes the cheers for our athletes even louder.

A mom gives a hug to two happy athletes at once

Smiles All Around. A mom gives a hug to two Special Olympics athletes at once.

Among Friends

At Special Olympics competitions and events, family members are among friends – and feel at home. They watch with pride as their child, sibling, cousin, grandchild, aunt or uncle find success and joy.

They are also among people who really understand. Because even family members can be unaware of all that their child or relative with an intellectual disability can do.

A mother in Great Britain says families are part of the team -- working together to make it all happen. "Everyone in the programme accepts each other without question. Everyone works as a team supporting each other." She says her son has made great strides since joining Special Olympics. "I know this has meant a great deal to him and, as a mum, to watch Jamie achieve and believe in himself is just wonderful." 


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

Building Communities

Many family members become spokespeople or volunteers, coaches, fund-raisers and officials – giving them an important voice in Special Olympics.

Families are also an essential link to the community and wider support for our movement. By joining the Family Support Network, becoming a volunteer, and leading the expansion of Young Athletes, Special Olympics family members can really make a difference.

Families build communities by volunteering at athletic trainings, sharing links and information, talking online via a global network and serving in leadership roles. For every family member who gets involved, Special Olympics has a reason to celebrate.


Stories About Our Families


March 05, 2015 | North America: Utah

A Sixth Sense

By Gwen Olsen Saltern

Our precious Down Syndrome daughter was a wonderful gift to our family. We adored her. When I was sad or hurting, even if no one else noticed, she seemed to know.View Story Our precious Down Syndrome daughter was a wonderful gift to our family. We adored her. When I was sad or hurting, even if no one else noticed, she seemed to know. With compassion and concern in her eyes, she would pat my arm and say, "Okay Mommy? Hug? Kiss?" In my mind, she was emotionally and spiritually brilliant. She was a treasured light in our lives, and we miss her gentle, loving presence in our lives.

About Gwen Olsen Saltern:Grateful mother of Shanette Saltern (deceased), four other children, and four step-children.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Florida

The Reason I #Respect

By Marlena LaFountain

My father was disabled and had mental handicaps, therefore he felt that he wasn't as "smart" or "good enough" because of how poorly he had been treated for being "slow". Even though I wasn't the one being called it, hearing my dad use that word to describe himself made me so unbelievably sad.View Story The R-Word is a hurtful term that I had to endure throughout my childhood but it wasn't directed at me. It was a word my father used to describe himself because of his disabilities. My father was disabled and had mental handicaps, therefore he felt that he wasn't as "smart" or "good enough" because of how poorly he had been treated for being "slow". Even though I wasn't the one being called it, hearing my dad use that word to describe himself made me so unbelievably sad. I would constantly tell him, "Daddy, you're smart! You know everything, you're my dad!" and he'd smile because of the simple gesture of kindness. The one time I heard someone call him a "retard" for being slow, I got so blood-boiling angry and couldn't understand using such a hateful word against someone who was kind, understanding, so incredibly hard working and the best dad in the world. Any time I hear the use of this word, it makes me so sad or so angry so wiping out the use of the R-Word is very important to me.

About Marlena LaFountain:I'm Marlena. I'm a 29 year old independent author and aromatherapy shop owner from upstate New York. I live in Tampa Florida with my partner. I support equality in ALL walks of life. I promote love.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Oklahoma

A great grandmas love

By Nelda Reynolds

As a great grandma of Emersyn Elder. the time spent with her just makes my day with love and happinessView Story As a great grandma of Emersyn Elder. the time spent with her just makes my day with love and happiness

About Nelda Reynolds:
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Texas

My daughter

By Jennifer Arnold

My daughter

My daughter was diagnosed as intellectually disabled when she was 5, and she's my world and I never want her to feel like she is less than anyone else.View Story My daughter was diagnosed as intellectually disabled when she was 5, and she's my world and I never want her to feel like she is less than anyone else. She's an amazingly sweet, active, and wonderful child who can and will do anything she desires to do. I refuse to allow others to demean her or her friends because they don't deserve it. She and her friends on her Special Olympics team work hard and are amazing kids who shouldn't ever feel like anyone else is better than them. People don't realize when they use that word in a derogatory manner it tears someone else down whether they meant to or not. I think educating others on how their words affect the people around them is a terrific thing, and maybe they will realize that what they say can hurt even when they don't mean it to do so.

About Jennifer Arnold:I'm a mom of a wonderful 11 year old who is my world. I'm also a wife, step-mother, and step-grandmother.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Oklahoma

The Irony of the R-Word

By Candice Barrow

The R-word doesn't describe this guy; amazing does! I could never do enough to repay him for the ways he's bettered me as a person, and it all started with his dad calling out my use of the R-word and making me aware of how hurtful it can be to someone so irreplaceable!View Story I have a son on the autism spectrum who is very intelligent, so the R-word was never something I thought much of. Then, I met and fell in love with these two... https://vimeo.com/5717103 Not only does the word offend me now, but I see the true irony. MR definition-below average intelligence. While I was helping Max learn how to do his division, he was teaching me about much more important lessons in life, like how to be patient, and how to appreciate the good things in life without harping on the negatives, the feeling of being so proud of someone you can't even describe it, and what it's like to love a kid who is not my own unconditionally. The R-word doesn't describe this guy; amazing does! I could never do enough to repay him for the ways he's bettered me as a person, and it all started with his dad calling out my use of the R-word and making me aware of how hurtful it can be to someone so irreplaceable!

About Candice Barrow:I am a mom of four. Three boys and a girl. My middle son is on the autism spectrum, but our cause is Prader-William Syndrome because some very special people we love are affected by it daily!
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March 05, 2015 | North America: New York

My Best Man

By Dennis L. Page

When I had my first date with my wife I brought her flowers. Her brother who had Down syndrome answered the door excitedly. Little did I know it was his birthday and how much he loved flowers.View Story When I had my first date with my wife I brought her flowers. Her brother who had Down syndrome answered the door excitedly. Little did I know it was his birthday and how much he loved flowers. His name was Raymond Michael and he made everyone around him better people. Needless to say, when I married Ray's sister I asked him to be my Best Man. He was so proud the day of our wedding and kept repeating, "It's my day, huh Dennis." "Yes it is Ray" was my response.

About Dennis L. Page:My wife is an elementary school teacher in this area. She has taught school over 40 years. Her brother We both believe in kindness and acceptance and Raymond taught us unconditional love.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: New York

Picture worth 1000 words

By anthony Ptak

Whenever I hear someone use the R-word I show that person a picture of my son and tell them how proud I am of him, and how well he's doing at school, and how words affect how people perceive my son.View Story Whenever I hear someone use the R-word I show that person a picture of my son and tell them how proud I am of him, and how well he's doing at school, and how words affect how people perceive my son, and how it makes the world a difficult place for him to be his best. Usually the person is ashamed of themselves and I ask them to remember my son, and choose a different word next time.

About anthony Ptak :I'm a proud dad, educator and advocate for my son who happens to have Down Syndrome, trisomy 21.
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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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