Volunteer for Special Olympics
Volunteers are the backbone of the Special Olympics movement. They are coaches, trainers, officials, event organizers, fundraisers and managers. They can also be unified partners -- playing alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities -- or fans cheering in the stands.
Helpful Hint. Special Olympics athlete Erin Thompson of Virginia gets pre-race instructions from volunteer race official Bob McCormick.
Rewarding for All
Our volunteers are all ages and their commitments can range from an afternoon to a lifetime. From China to the United States, Ghana to Singapore, Australia to Paraguay, Ireland to India, our volunteers are helping to bring out the champion in every Special Olympics athlete.
Special Olympics would not exist today — and could not have been created -- without the time, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers. We owe so much to these millions of people who find the time to make the world a better place.
If you want to be a volunteer, get in touch with Special Olympics near you.
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
Spirit of Giving
Special Olympics is about transforming lives, including your own. It’s about a spirit of giving and teamwork. It's about making your commune ty and neighborhood a more welcoming and accepting place for people of all abilities.
It’s also about creating lifelong friendships and finding a new way of thinking about others.
Our volunteers include the local coach who works with athletes many times a week. Or the people who help organize and plan our World Games every two years. Or the photographers who take the most amazing pictures of our athletes in action.
All around the world, Special Olympics training, competitions and other events are happening 365 days a year. There is always something interesting to do!
All Ages, All Interests
We have seen dramatic growth in teens and young adults volunteering with Special Olympics. These volunteers include students taking part in school-based groups like Special Olympics Project UNIFY and Special Olympics College. Their enthusiasm, dedication and creativity are hard to beat!
One of our college leaders began volunteering on a whim when she was in the second grade. She calls that "the best decision of my life."
Charles Scott of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors has been a longtime volunteer. Over the years, he has learned that Special Olympics is a place that deeply appreciates its volunteers, their spirit and dedication. "You know you’re really helping people who are differently able than others," he says. "That’s a gratifying experience for us all.”
Stories About Our Volunteers
April 21, 2015 | North America: Oregon
He's a Smart Cookie
Every Friday, I get to play with a little boy, and I am not even going to define his disability, because after two years of hanging out with him, I look at him and I don't see a disability. I just see an awesome little boy.View Story ▼Every Friday I have the joy of hanging out with kids with a range of physically and mentally different abilities in the Oregon State program, "IMPACT." I get to play with a little boy, and I am not even going to define his disability, because after two years of hanging out with him, I look at him and I don't see a disability. I just see an awesome little boy. I used to explain some of his behaviors as part of his disability, but the more time I spend with him the more I realize that his behavior is not unlike any other kid his age. One day I was trying to turn on the floor fan in the gym and it was plugged in and everything, but wouldn't turn on. He just reached down and pressed the red switch on the power strip, and on went the fan, something I didn't even consider. He is one of the smartest, kindest, best hearted kids I have ever met, and I am so lucky to call him my friend. So here is to loving people for who they are and not using any word that makes someone feel less.
About Addy:I am a student, and athlete, an adventure seeker, and a people lover. I love that we are spreading the word to end the word, because the world needs more people loving and building each other up.View less ▲
April 21, 2015 | Middle East North Africa: Tunisia
A Volunteer with Special Olympics
By أنيس الحضري
I am a young Tunisian who chose to be a volunteer in Special Olympics because I see that this activity should be done.View Story ▼I am a young Tunisian who chose to be a volunteer in Special Olympics because I see that this activity should be done. I am interested in volunteer work, especially with people with intellectual disabilities or health problems. I see there is a need to reach a broader base of people with intellectual disabilities who are still facing some difficulties and challenges.
About أنيس الحضري:I am a young Tunisian, and I have obtained a university level of education. I am 29 years old.View less ▲
April 16, 2015 | North America: South Carolina
Golf Skills Challenge During RBC Heritage, Ben Crane teaches
By Hilary Kerr
Ben Crane and local Special Olympic athletes watch a promising putt during the putting challenge.
Hilton Head Island is known for a few things; the beach, bikes, tennis, and golf. We are home to one of the top tennis resorts in the nation, as well as a PGA Pro Tournament.View Story ▼Hilton Head Island is known for a few things; the beach, bikes, tennis, and golf. We are home to one of the top tennis resorts in the nation, as well as a PGA Pro Tournament. More specifically, the RBC Heritage that took place April 13-19 this year. On Tuesday April 14th, a mile and a half over from The Heritage, Bank of America hosted a Skills Challenge, where our local Special Olympic athletes were put to the test. Heron Point by Pete Dye welcomed approximately twenty five eager athletes and a PGA Pro competing in the Heritage, Ben Crane, to the driving, chipping, and putting ranges to compete, learn, and have fun. Other local golf teachers and Bank of America volunteers lended a hand, giving tips and cheering on the athletes. The event was an overwhelming success and a great evening for all!
About Hilary Kerr:Hilary has been a volunteer with Special Olympics for over four years. She works closely with SOAR-Special Recreation, a local partner of Special Olympics, marketing and volunteering at events.View less ▲
April 07, 2015 | North America: Florida
By Yesenia Acuna
I met this young man at a Valentines dance that John I.'s Student Government put together. While setting up this event, I felt really happy for the fact I made a difference.View Story ▼I met this young man at a Valentines dance that John I.'s Student Government put together. While setting up this event, I felt really happy for the fact I made a difference. All the children from different schools came together and danced and laughed as if they knew eachother for years. There was no judging and there was no "R-Word" going around. My person that day, was Jonathan from Palm Beach Central. He invited me to join him on his big day, and that's where i'll be April 11th <3 I love you Jonathan and thank you for making an impact on my life.
About Yesenia Acuna:Working with children that have disabilities made my life more easy, and more comforting because seeing the childrens smiles are so amazing to me. This is why I plan to furthur my education to work with children like this for the rest of my life. It's honestly a blessing.View less ▲
March 29, 2015 | North America: Oklahoma
Think Before You Speak
So I used the r-word to display how childish my close friends were acting. A nearby little girl, she was five, stood up and walked over to me, with tears in her eyes she asked me to stop my use of this word, her best friend was handicapped, and also had a mental disability. I cried and told her how sorry I was.View Story ▼I used to use the r-word all the time, I have older brothers who said it when I was little, and i caught on and I'd said every since then. Until one day, someone changed my point of view, and showed me how badly the word can hurt someone with the disability. I was in a restaurant with some friends, we were eating chinese food, they were acting out, and putting chopsticks in their mouths acting as if they were walruses. So I used the r-word to display how childish my close friends were acting. A nearby little girl, she was five, stood up and walked over to me, with tears in her eyes she asked me to stop my use of this word, her best friend was handicapped, and also had a mental disability. I cried and told her how sorry I was. And I promised to never say this word again. She made me realize that that word can actually hurt someone with the disability, or close to someone with it. From that day forward I have never said the word again.
About Baylee :View less ▲
March 29, 2015 | North America: Ohio
The University of Findlay Spreads the Word to End the Word
By Andrea Bellmann
For the past four years, The University of Findlay’s (Ohio) student organization STRIDE (Students Teaching Respect for Individuals with Disabilities Everyday) hosts a “Spread the Word to End the Word” event to encourage faculty, students, and staff to take the pledge to stop using the “r-word”.View Story ▼For the past four years, The University of Findlay’s (Ohio) student organization STRIDE (Students Teaching Respect for Individuals with Disabilities Everyday) hosts a “Spread the Word to End the Word” event to encourage faculty, students, and staff to take the pledge to stop using the “r-word”. This year, we held our event on February 25, 2015. (Our Spring Break was the first week of March.)
This year, we decided to use social media to really “spread the word”. Since technology is becoming such a large part of our culture, we decided to use it to host a “Selfie Challenge.” In addition to having a banner for people to sign the pledge, we asked people to write a note explaining why they pledged to stop using the “r-word” and why this pledge was important to them. We encouraged them to take pictures of themselves with their notes and post in on their social media websites (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and use the hashtag “#spreadtheworduf.” The hashtag helped us keep all of our posts together so we could see each other’s posts, but by posting them on social media, we were able to “spread the word” farther to friends and family who are not involved with this event at our school.
We awarded gift cards to those who received the most “Likes, Favorites, and Retweets” which made a fun competition for such a great cause. Our “winner” was elated with the results, not because she won, but because she received more likes on her pledge picture than any other picture on her social media.
To us, this meant 100+ people saw this one post. With all of our students posting “selfies”, we were able to “Spread the Word to End the Word” to many more people than in previous years! We strongly encourage other organizations, schools, and universities to use this idea next year. It was an awesome way to involve people in a great cause. We will definitely be doing this again next year and hope to continue to “Spread the Word”!
About Andrea Bellmann:I am a member and officer of a student organization "STRIDE" (Students Teaching Respect for Individuals with Disabilities Everyday) and we volunteer for many local programs in this area. View less ▲
March 29, 2015 | North America: Florida
Travelled 1.1k miles to learn this valuable lesson
By m leonard
As a student of recreational therapy, I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a study-abroad program. While I never used the r-word directed at a person, I was still using it as a poor adjective choice.View Story ▼As a student of recreational therapy, I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a study-abroad program. While I never used the r-word directed at a person, I was still using it as a poor adjective choice. The 20-something crew I was traveling with quickly corrected me, but old habits are hard to break. It made me realize the power of habit in the brain-mouth connection. I have found a plethora of other adjectives since and continue to share the love and kindness in choosing other words.
About m leonard:retired veteran & graduate of FIU, Recreational Therapy. many special populations need and appreciate the benefit of our help. know that even the smallest efforts to share & connect are pricelessView less ▲
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Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!