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


July 29, 2014 | North America: Arkansas

The Student

By Terri Hood

I have been able to spread the knowledge of people with disabilities by way of group projects and have refused to and refused to let those around me use the R word in my presence. People think that we help teach people like my sister but in truth, they teach us.View Story My sister has cerebral palsy and though I am the youngest I've always been the oldest when it came to helping her. I was involved in Special Olympics and Partners club all through school and now while in college I am not able to participate as much as I want. I have been able to spread the knowledge of people with disabilities by way of group projects and have refused to and refused to let those around me use the R word in my presence. People think that we help teach people like my sister but in truth, they teach us. We get caught up in the complicated technologies,fast pace of jobs, ever present need for something more great and new in this world. But what my sister has taught me and the countless others I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life is that it is the simple things in life that mean the most. We say how sad that they don't have what we do, but in all reality how sad that we don't have the joy, love, and simple understanding and acceptance of others that they do.

About Terri Hood:21 year old student at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. Have always been involved in the lives of people with special needs and wouldn't ask for it any other way.
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July 29, 2014 | North America: New Jersey

Why i hate this Word

By Michele Nelson

I have a developmentally disabled older brother who I refuse to call the R word. He has a job and an apartment, which is more than some "normal" people.View Story I have a developmentally disabled older brother who I refuse to call the R word. He has a job and an apartment, which is more than some "normal" people. He is loving and accepting of everyone, which is more then I can say for most people. I tell people who use that word around me that I don't like it and not to use it around me.

About Michele Nelson:47 year old sister of a developmentally disabled brother, he had lack of oxygen at birth.
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July 29, 2014 | North America: New Hampshire

Wish I Had More Space to Write!!

By Lucinda Spence

When I was 20-ish I worked with a lovely older lady. One day, she spoke lovingly of the recent death of her younger "imbecile brother." I was shocked, then realized I was merely experiencing a generation gap.View Story I'm 66, 2 younger brothers, each mentally retarded. When I was 20-ish I worked with a lovely older lady. One day, she spoke lovingly of the recent death of her younger "imbecile brother." I was shocked, then realized I was merely experiencing a generation gap. When my sibs were born (& decades after) mentally retarded was a perfectly acceptable word. One graduated from Mt. Hope School for Retarded Children (a wonderful school, BTW!, saddened at mainstreaming, but another conversation). It is impossible to completely sanitize language. moron, imbecile, mentally retarded, mentally challenged, mentally disabled. So, what will we used now? unusually intelligent? specifically focused? I don't use the r-word, but don't object to it--unless it's REtard. Those who use it as an insult are jackasses and I call 'em on it. It's the person, not the word. My bro? He's worked his whole life, owns a new truck, has more money in the bank than me. Retarded but successful!

About Lucinda Spence:Middle of 6 kids, 2 younger brothers mentally retarded, mother grandmother, etc. No room to explain myself, but believe me I love and respect brothers (esp. the one whose bottle I used to steal!)
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July 25, 2014 | North America: Arkansas

So what 'I HAVE DOWN SYNDROME"

By Karen Bradshaw, Proud Mom and Supporter

Special Olympics is a part of my son's life and will always be. Thanks to the organization for making my son feel that he can compete in sports!View Story Wanted to go back 22 years to where SPECIAL OLYMPICS first entered Blake's life. As he turned 30 this month and still competes. Special Olympics has meant everything to Blake as he loves all sports. Not being able to compete in the "typical" sports through public school, softball throw and 50 meter run came into this little boy's life and the rest is nothing but awesome!!!!! He then went to swimming, which was self taught by me and his father, and excelled for 3 years until, at the age of 16 found PowerLifting and the last 15 years has competed at Area and State levels breaking all kinds of records for himself. By being a powerlifter he has worked out at a local World's Gym for 10 years meeting all kinds of people whom have embraced and shared in his accomplishments. As a mom, I could ask for nothing better!!!! Special Olympics is a part of his life and will always be!!!!! Thanks to the organization for making my son feel that he CAN COMPETE IN SPORTS!!!! Yes he can and has!!!

About Karen Bradshaw, Proud Mom and Supporter:I am a very proud Mom, that has seen her son (Blake) go from a 8 year old softball thrower to a medaled athlete in Powerlifting the last 22 years. WOW, what an impact having Special Olympics has made in his life.
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July 21, 2014 | North America: Tennessee

Special Olympics changed a life!

By Betsy Gentry

On the way home from the Special Olympics Games,Bryan Gentry kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes. He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory.View Story Special Olympics changed Bryan Gentry's life! In 1999 Bryan’s daughter, Brooke, was a senior in high school working as a peer tutor in a special education class at Bradley Central High School, Cleveland, Tennessee. Brooke was planning her future and helping special needs students was her passion. She also loved working with the Special Olympics. One day Brooke received a brochure regarding the International Special Olympics Games being held at Raleigh, North Carolina, close to Bryan’s hometown. The family decided to take our family vacation and be volunteers at Special Olympics Games. Brooke played tennis so the family signed up to work the tennis venue in North Carolina. When they arrived at the tennis courts, Brooke was assigned to work with the players and assigned Bryan and Betsy to help with parking. After about 15 minutes working in the parking lot, Bryan said, ‘I do not want to be with cars. I want to be with people.’ So he ran and jumped on the tennis court with Brooke and started helping her. On the way home he kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes! People had asked him is this your job? Bryan said, ‘No. I’m in the business world.” He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory, Bryan found himself drawn to a lifestyle of sacrifice unlike anything he ever experienced in all his years as a businessman. When the family returned home, Bryan made a life changing decision. He quit the business world and began working with special needs students. First as a social worker, then principal of a private school for adults with disabilities and after retirement he founded, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, a recreational activity for adults with disabilities. Bryan wanted to provide his extended family with a social outlet on Friday nights, which was as much about showing love as it was about filling a need.

About Betsy Gentry:Betsy Gentry supervises special education student teachers at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. She is a retired Work-based Learning Coordinator for Ooltewah High School in Ooltewah, Tennessee and a past Transition Coordinator for the Bradley County Schools in Cleveland, TN, and a Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager. She has worked with the Project Discovery curriculum both in implementing it with students with special needs at the local level and in training schools and districts nationwide on its use for nearly ten years. As a past Tennessee Council for Exceptional Children Special Educator of the Year, Mrs. Gentry is an expert on transition issues and a frequent state and national speaker.
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July 17, 2014 | North America: Maryland

Interest, Inspiration and Education

By Laura Russell

Adam wins gold with support of Eunice and family.

Adam has always been enthralled by history, the origins of things... organizations, TV shows. When the Kennedy-Shriver family showed up at a local high school track and field event, he was overjoyed.View Story Adam has always been enthralled by history, the origins or things... organizations, TV shows. It has been a kind of focus for his autism. Having recently (when he was 10) joined Special Olympics soccer and basketball teams he was especially interested in learning about the history of that organization. He wanted to know who started it, when, why. So when the Kennedy-Shriver family showed up at a local high school track and field event he was overjoyed. They were kind enough to allow for photos and Eunice shared a few words encouragement. I'm not sure if that is why he won gold in his bocce tournament that day but was memorable and inspiring. A few years later Adam was invited to the family home in Bethesda to demonstrate level 1 golf. The occasion was a gathering of Special Olympics International leaders. It was a thrill to be able to participate in this event and at the home where Special Olympics got its start. Adam is 24 and an active participant of Special Olympics.

About Laura Russell:Being a parent of a child with autism allows for an interesting life journey. Special Olympics has provided a structure for fun, healthy activities, fellowship, and acceptance. Our family will be forever grateful to Eunice for her development and oversight of this life enriching program.
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July 17, 2014 | North America: Connecticut

30+ years with Special Olympics

By LARRY ZALESKI

Kristen Zaleski, Milford Operation Mainstream (CT) with Eunice Shriver, CT Summer Games, 1989

Our family has been involved with Special Olympics since the early 80's. Kristen started out in track and field, switched to aquatics around '94.View Story Our family has been involved with Special Olympics since the early 80's. Kristen started out in track and field, switched to aquatics around '94. I began coaching soon after, am now lifetime certified aquatics coach. Kris also curls with the Connecticut program since its inception 5 years ago, and is a full member at the Nutmeg Curling Club in regular league play.

About LARRY ZALESKI:I am a special parent, certified aquatics coach, local coordinator in the Milford CT program.
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Special Olympics Blog

Bursting with Pride

"I’m looking forward to the day when Mary will become a Special Olympics Young Athlete. I cannot wait."read more »

Posted on 2014-07-25 by Ryan

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