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
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 ▲
November 13, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania
Everyone is different
Everywhere in the world people look different. It's very sad that in 2014 violence and hate crimes still exist. People who happen to look "different" are not bad, scary or deserving of hatred. Every one is different.View Story ▼Everywhere in the world people look different. It's very sad that in 2014 violence and hate crimes still exist. People who happen to look "different" are not bad, scary or deserving of hatred. Every one is different. Instead of sneaking around, vandalizing someone's home, harming others, stop. Children no matter what they look like, their size, gender, color, medical illness, features, or how they function are all beautiful children. They may not even realize they are different, their families don't treat them any different from the other siblings, so why should someone else have that right to feel that way. These beautiful children did nothing wrong, they were born a little different, but still are a beautiful person deserving of the same consideration of others. If you don't understand their condition, instead of speaking hate, instead of hiding behind ignorance, educate yourself and others. Find out how to HELP not hate. Every one is God's child. No matter what they look like.
About Elizabeth:View less ▲
November 12, 2014 | North America: Colorado
My Momma Told Me...It's all About Love
By Ashley Bunn
My mother has worked with adults with mental disabilities for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me about love.View Story ▼My mother has worked with adults with mental disabilities for as long as I can remember. I remember going to picnics with her and her clients and going to work with her sometimes. My mom taught me about love. She has so much love and respect for those she serves. This is something she has passed on to me. When I was in school, she always encouraged me to be friends with and sit with those with disabilities. That has instilled in me a love for these awesome people. Kids are cruel, and I often was teased and harassed because of my action. But that was nothing compared to what these kids went through. I like to hope that I gave them some sort of bright spot to their day.
But the sad thing, as an adult, I see it just as much as when I was a kid. It starts with us. What can we do? We can love. We can educate others. We can be the example. Just like my mom did to me.
About Ashley Bunn:I am a 29 year old member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint. I am a nerd. I believe that love and respect can change the world.View less ▲
November 12, 2014 | North America: Virginia
Words may hurt, but can make us stronger
By Arrar Ochoa
There are many words that can hurt anyone, but there is only one word that can hurt like the r-word. Why use it? To make yourself powerful? Seem cool?View Story ▼There are many words that can hurt anyone, but there is only one word that can hurt like the r-word. Why use it? To make yourself powerful? Seem cool? What about that person who you just called the r-word? Don't you care? Instead of saying the r- word, say lets be FRIENDS, and instead of laughing, try helping. Instead of being like your friends, stand out and help. Don't let what others think get in the way in helping. Every kid is special and different, but the same. These kids can make you smile, and lighten your day, and you can have a friendship that can not be seen, because there is so much to learn, that it can't be broken, because that friendship never ends.
So stand up for these kids, be their knight and armor, be their guardian angel, be anything, but most of all be their friend, it won't kill you, but make you into something you never knew you had. So stop the r-word, and create a future where we can all be treated as equal and start something new.
About Arrar Ochoa:I want to major in art, and help disability kids to do art, so that they can have their voice be seen and heard. For me we are equal and friends, they are my role models ^_^View less ▲
November 10, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Spain
Special and beautiful, that is what you are
By Cristina Sánchez
I live in Spain, so, people here use a different r-word, but just as hurtful and unfair. When I was small, we had classmates with Down syndrome at school.View Story ▼I live in Spain, so, people here use a different r-word, but just as hurtful and unfair. When I was small, we had classmates with Down syndrome at school, I lived in a very small town and had never met any such special kids before: they were gentle, fun, gorgeous... I wanted a brother or sister like them! Over the years, I have met quite a few kids with Down syndrome, and, every one of them has surprised and enchanted me, just like any other charming, beautiful kid. In France, I met a young girl who was perfectly bilingual in French and Spanish... How many of you can say that? I hate any demeaning, hurtful term used to call any person. Nobody deserves that. If you feel that you need to insult, then there is something wrong with YOU, not with the target of your insult.
About Cristina Sánchez:Not much to say about me... Just love my fellow creatures, people and animals :-)View less ▲
November 10, 2014 | North America: Wisconsin
They're not a word. They're People.
When I was in high school, I worked as a student teacher in a special education classroom. That right there makes it personal to me.View Story ▼When I was in high school, I worked as a student teacher in a special education classroom. That right there makes it personal to me. People with a disability are still people, with emotions and feelings, and they are the most loving and fun people in the world. Full of hope, eager to learn, and happy to help you and make friends. But that's not all. I have an emotional disability. My fiance' has a learning disability, and millions of other people in the world, that you might never know have a disability. That never stops them from trying their hardest, being their best, loving like no one else, or being HUMAN BEINGS. NO ONE should EVER be called the r-word, and it should never be used inappropriately(there's a proper way to use the r-word, and it has nothing to do with stupidity).
About Dez:I'm just an everyday person who stands up for what I believe in.View less ▲
November 10, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Spain
By Derek Shields
I'm lucky to be a Brit and we have not used these words for most of my 71 years. Always we work with the word People first whatever is their disadvantage or different ability.View Story ▼I'm lucky to be a Brit and we have not used these words for most of my 71 years. Always we work with the word People first whatever is their disadvantage or different ability. So I might be a Person with Learning Difficulties. This may mean I have Down's syndrome or another sort of different ability. After I retired I taught in the local adult centre for five years and a number of my students had learning difficulties. What was wonderful was that all we had to do together was to work out how best we could learn the next topic. It wasn't that we couldn't learn the topics, it was merely that each of us has a slightly different way to learn which may take a little more time. What does that matter? If we needed more time, we took it. Subject results were marvelous and we all gained so much confidence and new skills. For me, the tutor, the sheer pleasure and joy that I derived from our classes was as much as I had ever had in thirty years of teaching.
About Derek Shields:I'm a retired academic originally from UK but now living in Spain. I taught management until my retirement and taking early retirement I worked at the local adult education centre for five years.View less ▲
About Special Olympics in North America
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Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!