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
December 12, 2014 | North America: Illinois
The Boy Who Changed the Way I Think
By Maddie Thill
When I was 11, I joined my school's Best Buddies program. I was matched with Victor, a 10 year old boy who couldn't speak, and was only learning how to walk. We instantly became best friends.View Story ▼When I was 11, I joined my school's Best Buddies program. I was matched with Victor, a 10 year old boy who couldn't speak, and was only learning how to walk. We instantly became best friends. Whenever I had a free period, i would see him. We would work on walking. I would hold him up with a walker and special straps and we walk walk up and down the hallways. students in my grade would pass by and mutter things like "retard" or "Why does she hang out with him?" It hurt me, and I assume, it hurt Victor too. So, my school joined the campaign. Many people at my school are more educated on the effect of their words. I Pledge for Victor.
About Maddie Thill:I am an advocate for Best Buddies and Special Olympics. I'm a unified bocce ball partner. I go to Creekside Middle school and I'm 14. View less ▲
December 01, 2014 | North America: Canada
I am a student assistant
I have worked with many special children over the past 25 years and love them all they are all special and unique people, they are all smart in different ways and should be treated better than using words like retarded its a awful work and I would never use it on these children. I think people shoView Story ▼I have worked with many special children over the past 25 years and love them all they are all special and unique people, they are all smart in different ways and should be treated better than using words like retarded its a awful work and I would never use it on these children. I think people should get to know them first before they pass judgement on what they are like.
About Angela:I am a student assistant and have been for over 25 years now and love my job. It's a rewarding job to do.View less ▲
December 01, 2014 | North America: Northern California
My little brother David saved my life.
By Tim Loomis
Trevor's Ride A Wave Surfing Day at Pleasure Point
My youngest brother, David, was born with Down syndrome. The ripple effect of David's special needs status is ongoing to this day. His condition helped me and my family to become extremely sensitive to other people also with special needs.View Story ▼My youngest brother, David, was born with Down syndrome. The ripple effect of David's special needs status is ongoing to this day. His condition helped me and my family to become extremely sensitive to other people also with special needs. I worked as a teacher for 10 years always trying to give a little extra something to students with special needs. Currently, I am a volunteer and a board member for a non profit here in Santa Cruz called Ride A Wave. We put on ten camps a summer for people w/special needs giving them an opportunity to surf, bodyboard, SUP and kayak. To say that David has influenced my life is an understatement.
About Tim Loomis:64 year old man with a loving wife - Sheryl, who recently retired as a Special Ed. (what else) teacher.
I own a manufacture's rep company selling surfing and fly fishing gear in Central/Northern Ca..View less ▲
November 26, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland
Special Olympics Ireland volunteers win 3 awards!
By Pamela Kavanagh
Pictured below is:
Annette Codd, (Regional Director, Special Olympics Leinster) John Treacy, (CEO, Irish Sports Council) Patrick Akpoveta , Peggy Mason, Shane Carolan (all Special Olympics volunteers) and Matt English (CEO, Special Olympics Ireland)
Minster of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring announced the winners of the National Volunteers in Sports Awards on Wednesday November 19th at a ceremony in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.View Story ▼Minster of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring announced the winners of the National Volunteers in Sports Awards on Wednesday November 19th at a ceremony in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
The National Volunteer in Sport Awards were started in 2007, headed up by the Federation of Irish Sports - which represents some 72 National Governing Bodies and 28 Local Sports Partnerships: they estimate there are now 500,000 adults volunteering in sport on a regular basis in Ireland. The winners came from 342 nominations and were selected by a committee chaired by Olympian Ronnie Delaney, representatives of the Federation of Irish Sports, the Irish Sport Council, The Irish Times, RTE and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Special Olympics Ireland were extremely proud to have 3 volunteers receive this prestigious award. They were Patrick Akpoveta who first volunteered with Special Olympics in 2003 and has coached basketball and football teams, Peggy Mason who has volunteered with us since 1985, set up the South Dublin Gymnastic Club, helped set up a Special Olympics Bowling Club and has also volunteered with the Dundrum Arch Club for 35 years and Shane Carolan who has volunteered with us since 2007, particularly in the area of our Motor Activities Training Programme.
A massive congratulations goes to our 3 winners and also to the thousands of volunteers working tirelessly in every community across Ireland on our behalf.
Your support is essential to our organisation and we could not operate without you!
About Pamela Kavanagh:I work in the Marketing, Communications and Fundraising department of Special Olympics Ireland based in DublinView less ▲
November 21, 2014 | North America: Michigan
Unified Sports has changed my life
By Jeremy Heinlein
No one should be left out of something because they are different. We need to embrace our differences and understand each other.
I challenge everyone else to become involved with Unified Sports, to be more understanding, and be more inclusive.View Story ▼Unified Sports has changed my life. It has given a new way to view the world that I never would have had before.
I have a new appreciation for my opportunities, and will be forever grateful for the friendships and connections that Unified Sports has given me. Whenever I’m a part of something, I make it a point to be inclusive. No one should be left out of something because they are different. We need to embrace our differences and understand each other.
I challenge everyone else to become involved with Unified Sports, to be more understanding, and be more inclusive. Make a change in your life, and make a difference in someone else’s. Remember to “Play Unified, Live Unified.”
About Jeremy Heinlein:Jeremy Heinlein works for the Central Michigan University Leadership Institute in Mt. Pleasant and is a former public relations intern at Special Olympics Michigan.View less ▲
November 21, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics
SPECIAL Special Olympics
By Laura S Buracker
For anyone who feels sad, who doesn't "get" good sportsmanship, who needs something "big" to happen to make them excited...come to a Special Olympics event!View Story ▼My family has been a part of Special Olympics for over 16 years.
For anyone who feels sad, who doesn't "get" good sportsmanship, who needs something "big" to happen to make them excited...come to a Special Olympics event!
The excitement, the smiles and giggles, the pride is there in everything the athletes do...even if it's a gutter ball in bowling, a strikeout in softball, or an air ball in basketball! The excitement is contagious!
My family has been blessed with our own special athlete, as well as those that we play with, watch, and coach.
About Laura S Buracker:Mom of an athlete; coach softball; Registered nurse; Area medic and medical representativeView less ▲
November 19, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania
Change starts with me
By Laura Squicciarini
One day while walking on campus and talking on his cellphone, another student walking by called Kevin a retard. There was no reason for it and this person did not even know him.View Story ▼My University has a program for students with special needs so they can attend classes and get a real college experience. I worked as a tutor for the program with a student named Kevin (pseudonym). I really enjoyed working with Kevin and we grew to be good friends. I learned to see beyond his disability and see his abilities. One day while walking on campus and talking on his cellphone, another student walking by called Kevin a retard. There was no reason for it and this person did not even know him. Because of this incident, Kevin left the program and the school. This program was a great opportunity for Kevin and it was ruined because of one person’s ignorance. I miss my friend on campus and wish that I could change how people treat him, so I can share his story to spread awareness.
About Laura Squicciarini:I am an education student and former buddy for Special Olympics. I volunteer on my college campus with students with special needs. View less ▲
About Special Olympics in North America
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Volunteer Near You
Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!