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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


April 22, 2015 | North America: Ohio

Bye Bye to the R word

By Madelyn

My brother and cousin both have Down Syndrome and they both have the biggest hearts. It truly makes me upset when I hear people using the R-word and them not even being bothered when saying it.View Story My brother and cousin both have Down Syndrome and they both have the biggest hearts. It truly makes me upset when I hear people using the R-word and them not even being bothered when saying it. Whenever I hear someone say the word, I correct them right after and help make them realize how offending it is to others. I started talking to a guy about 3 months ago and he used the word all the time. I have told him many times how offending that word is and how he should really stop saying it. The other night one we were all out with a group of friends and of his buddies said the R-word. Before I could even say anything he looked to his buddy and told him to never say that word and explained to him how offending the word truly is. It was amazing seeing him spreading the word to end the word!!

About Madelyn:19 year old from BGSU
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April 22, 2015 | North America: New York

Love Knows No Limits

By Karen O

I grew up with my uncle who had Down syndrome & my brother Jon who developed cerebral palsy shortly after birth. This was the 1960's, so Jon ended up in an institution at age 4.View Story I grew up with my uncle who had Down syndrome & my brother Jon who developed cerebral palsy shortly after birth. This was the 1960's, so Jon ended up in an institution at age 4. Sadly, he never again lived with our family & I didn't see him for a number of years. I began searching for him after my friend, who had a heart for people with disabilities, encouraged me to. She treated her friends with disabilities like all the rest of her friends and I was able to find a kind social worker ( I knew my brother was living in my area ); she set up a meeting at a local bagel shop. Apparently when she asked him about meeting me after probably ten years apart, he responded with an enthusiastic "yes!". He didn't know we'd be meeting that day & when he was brought in the shop, he called out my name and rushed over for a big hug. Since that day in 1985, we meet up once a month or so to visit & do things together. We have Jon overnight on his birthday every year and just enjoy our relationship.

About Karen O:Retired nurse
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April 21, 2015 | North America: Ohio

Too many years I lived with the r-word.

By Samantha Shanti

At age 8, I couldn't read or write at all, and people could not/would not understand how I was different and support my needs and desire to grow. Lots of testing and then the news: I was mentally retarded.View Story At age 8, I couldn't read or write at all, and people could not/would not understand how I was different and support my needs and desire to grow. Lots of testing and then the news: I was mentally retarded. It was a diagnosis then, and it was applied to me. From that point on my father called me 'The retard' and it hurt. Momma loved me and helped me learn and grow the way she did. Wasn't until I was 48 years old that I found out that Autism is what I live with. I'm autistic, not "retarded" and yes I'm different, but I'm no less a person than anyone else. So this campaign has real meaning to me.

About Samantha Shanti:50 year old Autistic woman, wife, widow, girlfriend. I've lived a heck of a life overshadowed by the r-word. Finally I'm free.
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April 06, 2015 | North America: New York

Why I Stopped Using the word

By Kerima

I stopped using the 'r' word 2 years ago, when my two little brothers were diagnosed with Autism. The 'r' word actually has a meaning, it's not something that should be used to make fun of others.View Story I stopped using the 'r' word 2 years ago, when my two little brothers were diagnosed with Autism. The 'r' word actually has a meaning, it's not something that should be used to make fun of others. My little brothers are my world, and when I say that, I mean that with everything I have. They are two little angels, and taking this journey with them means a lot to me. They are non-verbal making it very hard to communicate. I have this friend in school, he usually gets easily distracted and i'm always there to help them with there work, one day he was working and someone called him retarded. I was more angry than he was... no one should ever be made fun, no one. I pledge because This word should not be used in the wrong way, its disrespectful and it hurts feelings. I hope others pledge to.. I love my little brothers <3 <3 <3 and i love disabled children/people <3

About Kerima :I am a sister of two autistic brothers, and they mean everything to me.. I am 16 years old and am planning to be a special education teacher when im older :)
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April 06, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

No comparison!

By Lynn VanBlunk-Ruffenach

When I'm out and about or watching a movie with friends or family and hear someone using the R word to describe someone who is drunk, obnoxious or otherwise impaired it's a kick in the stomach to think they are comparing someone's socially unacceptable behaviour to my beautiful child!View Story When I'm out and about or watching a movie with friends or family and hear someone using the R word to describe someone who is drunk, obnoxious or otherwise impaired it's a kick in the stomach to think they are comparing someone's socially unacceptable behaviour to my beautiful child! It's very sad. I know they don't mean it that way but it is a comparison and taken that way all the same! It took my daughter being born for me to see how wrong, how hurtful, how inappropriate and how overlooked the comparison really is! Please Stop! Because it's been so misused it even hurts when it's used in the medical field! It's not fair because those who are being put down can not defend themselves. And we as advocates fight so hard to help them be productive members of their community. A community that uses such derogatory terms against them without a second thought! Please think!

About Lynn VanBlunk-Ruffenach :I'm June's Mom & Advocate. June is a delightful child who has Down's syndrome & type 1 diabetes they don't have her so she is not a Down's syndrome child's or a diabetic she's a child FIRST!
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March 29, 2015 | SOI: Region North America

Nathan

By Hope Ossakow

Ok,so yesterday my brother and I were at my other brothers tournament for soccer and my brother nathan with downsyndrome was making background noises like he usually does because of his disability and because he can't talk.View Story Ok, so yesterday my brother and I were at my other brother's tournament for soccer and my brother Nathan with Down syndrome was making background noises like he usually does because of his disability and because he can't talk and this boy just sits right next to him with his friend and just starts laughing at him and then says to his friend "he's so weird Ew" and luckily the friend kept quiet and observed Nathan without laughing. But then the boy got worse and said to his friend "ew look at his face " and I just kept listening as my anger was building up and finally the boy said "hello can you even hear me" and then after that said to his friend "I just want to punch him, all he is saying is eeeeeeeee" and then finally I couldn't stand it anymore and went over the the boy and said "punch him and you're dead" and then the boy and his friend ran away and that was the end of my perfect little brother nathan getting bullied / made fun of!

About Hope Ossakow:I am very athletic and love to sing. Even though I am considered a kid still i support all disabilities as much as possible and so does my whole family!
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Texas

Kempner High School Sugar Land Texas Bricks up Erase the "R' Word

By KHS Best Buddies Club Parent Team

The Best Buddies Club hold "BRICK UP THE 'R' WORD!" at Kempner High School Texas

Kempner High School, Sugar Land TX is hosting a 'Brick up the R word' all this week. The 'Bricks" will cover up the "R" word and spell RESPECT!!! The Best Buddies chapter of KHS is also hosting fundraisers to raise money for the Best Buddies Houston Friendship Walk in Houston on April 18th.View Story Kempner High School, Sugar Land TX is hosting a 'Brick up the R word' all this week. The 'Bricks" will cover up the "R" word and spell RESPECT!!! The Best Buddies chapter of KHS is also hosting fundraisers to raise money for the Best Buddies Houston Friendship Walk in Houston on April 18th. Go Cougars!!

About KHS Best Buddies Club Parent Team:My daughter has Down Syndrome & epilepsy. We are involved in the Best Buddies Chapter at Kempner High School. This club has changed her life. She has found her voice, her confidence and self esteem.
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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. 

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Posted on 2015-03-11 by Tim

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