Special Olympics Mission

The power of sport to change lives is clear in the joy visible on the face of Matthias Puetz of Germany after his snowboarding performance during the 2013 World Winter Games in Korea. Photo by Diego Azubel

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

230 x 300 Snowshoeing in Korea

Snowshoeing gold medalist Carmen Rosa Garcia of Bolivia at the 2013 World Winter Games. Photo: Diego Azubel

46 Years of Empowerment

The Special Olympics mission remains as vital today as it did when the movement was founded in 1968. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. 

Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment -- on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

There are about 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Our goal is to reach out to every one of them – and their families as well. Special Olympics does this through a wide range of trainings, competitions, health screenings and fund-raising events. We also create opportunities for families, community members, local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, celebrities, dignitaries and others to band together to change attitudes and support athletes.


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

The Power to Transform Lives

The transformative power of sports to instill confidence, improve health and inspire a sense of competition is at the core of what Special Olympics does. From the detailed coaching guides we provide in many languages to the sharp-eyed officials at our international games, the focus is on real sports, real competition, real achievements.

In Special Olympics, the power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what our athletes CAN do, not what they can't. Attention to disabilities fades away. Instead, we see our athletes' talents and abilities -- and applaud them for all that they can do. And they are doing a lot -- from gymnastics to soccer to open-water swimming. With our 33 Olympic-style sports, we offer adults and children with intellectual disabilities many ways to be involved in their communities, many ways to show who they really are.  


Stories about the Power of Special Olympics


August 27, 2014 | Africa: Malawi

Bringing Safer Water to Families in Malawi

By David Evangelista
August 26, 2014 | Africa: Swaziland

Special Olympics Participates in Violence Against Children Conference

By Annemarie van Wieringen
August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Great Britain

Conner and Comaneci: Volunteer Heroes

By Chris Hull

Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci pose with gymnasts from Special Olympics Great Britain.

Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci.View Story Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci. Not only meet her, but perform for her and have a 90-minute hands-on skills session with her. "Incredible," she said. Comaneci and her husband, Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner, devoted an evening to a group of lucky Special Olympics Great Britain gymnasts on 18 August in London. It was part of a decades-long commitment to Special Olympics that the couple has shared. Both are big fans of Special Olympics and are on the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. They volunteer their experience and knowledge to ensure Special Olympics gymnasts around the world get a chance to perform to the peak of their abilities.

About Chris Hull:I am the communications director for Special Olympics Great Britain.
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August 19, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania

Special Friend

By Nicholas Piccari

Special Olympics is a place where my brother Danny can be himself and a place that accepts all kinds of special athletes. Danny has been involved with Bucks County Special Olympics in gymnastics, soccer, softball, track and field, and bocce. He even had the honor to go to World Games in Shanghai China about 8 years ago.View Story I created a video that shows just a few examples of how not only my brother, but all people with special needs are truly amazing people. From the impact that they have on us, to the love that they share. How they simply want to live their lives just like we do. Yes, they have disabilities, but they are still humans just like everyone else. They long for friendship, fun, and even love. Special Olympics has been a blessing for my brother. Not one to be shy, clearly from the video, but it is a place where Danny can be himself and a place that accepts all kinds of special athletes. Danny has been involved with Bucks County Special Olympics his whole life. From gymnastics, to soccer, softball, track and field, and bocce. He has excelled in every event he has competed in. Even getting the honor to go to World Games in Shanghai China about 8 years ago. There are many positive thing one can say about Special Olympics. From the Coaches, to the volunteers that help out, the parents, but more importantly the friends Danny has created along the way. Friendship that are as strong today as they were when they first met through Special Olympics. Special Olympics is an organization that helps show how these athletes are true heroes. How many of them have overcome obstacles that many of us couldn’t even fathom. My brother is a walking miracle, surviving a surgery doctors deemed he would have very little survival (that’s a whole other story). Even with his obstacles I tried showing how much of a blessing and normal life he does live. So, yes, they are right in saying my brother is special, but special in a different way. He is a special athlete, a special brother, and one heck of a special friend.

About Nicholas Piccari:I play music and every show I play my brother Danny is always there to support. Every show he attends, Danny always asked me to play the Irish song "Oh Danny Boy". That song does not fit my style of playing so I did the next best thing. I wrote him a song so anytime he asked me to play his song, I can. I also put a little video together for it.
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August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Israel

In Israel, Mothers Made Time for Children with Intellectual Disabilities After Leaving Air Raid Shelters

By Robi Dolev

Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country.View Story Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country. We offered to make art workshops. When I asked the Special Olympics families who was willing to volunteer, the response was overwhelming. We included Miki, the bocce coach, who requested to join us to play bocce. We eight mothers set off on Wednesday with the bocce coach. We operated through stations, and many people came to join in the activities. The families spent hours with us, crafting, laughing and simply enjoying. We saw mutual assistance between siblings: What love did they pile upon their special brother/sisters. Eight-year-old Noya fell in love with 3-year-old Meir, a remarkable child with Down syndrome. “Can I take him home as a gift?” she asked his mother. Meir’s mother responded with “Such a gift from heaven comes, but once in a lifetime, and I am not letting him go!” It was an unforgettable experience for all.

About Robi Dolev:My name is Tali, I am the family coordinator in Israel, i encourage each time the family members to share stories.
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August 19, 2014 | Africa: Botswana

Botswana Ministry of Education Helps Special Olympics Reach New Areas

By Mr Ross Tebele

The month of May was an exciting one for Special Olympics Botswana. Through a partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Education, Special Olympics Botswana held two regional games, one in the remote Western region and the other in the Southern region of the country. Some of these communities had never before been exposed to Special Olympics or its mission.View Story The month of May was an exciting one for Special Olympics Botswana. Through a partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Education, Special Olympics Botswana held two regional games, one in the remote Western region and the other in the Southern region of the country. Some of these communities had never before been exposed to Special Olympics or its mission. Special Olympics Botswana receives support from the Botswana Ministry of Education to reach out and engage people with intellectual disabilities in the country. The Ministry also helps to identify special schools around the country where Special Olympics Botswana can pilot and host competitions. The Ministry’s Chief Education Officer, Ms. Lesego Masitara, is very involved with Special Olympics Botswana and attends most competitions. She is impressed by the remarkable talent the athletes display during the games. In the Western region 6 special schools and 72 athletes participated in track and field events hosted at Kelekele Primary School, and in the South Central region 323 athletes from 15 different schools competed at Mogoditshane Special School in Gaborone. JAF Auto contributed generously to the success of these events as part of their commitment to supporting the games in these regions. There are persons with intellectual disability in all cultures, races, and countries. Special Olympics’ goal is to create awareness of the 200 million people in the world with ID.

About Mr Ross Tebele :Special Olympics Botswana National Director
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August 18, 2014 | North America: Michigan

An unexpected journey

By James Hutson

The Hutsons of Michigan

I don't know where he got the athletic passion and desire from, but I have watched this young man who bears my last name and my hopes and dreams excel in the world of others who are part of a cadre of special people.View Story I can remember when he was born.....how I was told in the days following his first breath that life would be difficult and challenging. I don't know where he got the athletic passion and desire from, I'm a Olympian of the Couch potato-variety. But I know where he gets his sportsmanship and pride from. I have watched this young man who bears my last name and my hopes and dreams excel in the world of others who are part of a cadre of special people. Some may say that they are special needs, and truly I thought myself at one time that such a description was far and accurate. But I have come to understand, as a parent immersed in this world of uniquely gifted and highly valuable people, that the word special speaks far more of their character, passion, drive, joy and compassion rather than the challenges of their bodies or mind. It is a great opportunity to come to the Special Olympic Games among so many athletes who come to compete with honor and pride, knowing my son is one.

About James Hutson:I am a single father with three kids, two at home, and am proud of my association with such an organization of GREAT Olympic athletes, volunteers, staff and parents. Truly a community of exceptional compassion, pride and honor!
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August 13, 2014 | North America: Texas

Why I got into Meet in the Middle Project Unify

By Malerie Corbell

I've only been in Meet in the Middle for a little over a year and I've not only made a difference in their lives (athletes) but they've made a difference in mine. They've turned my whole life around and on the right course.View Story My name is Malerie Corbell, and I took the pledge to end the r-word. I took the pledge and joined the Meet in the Middle group because I've had a lot of personal problems. Over the past 4 years I've had severe depression and wanted a change. I've only been in MIM for a little over a year and I've not only made a difference in their lives (athletes) but they've made a difference in mine. They've turned my whole life around and on the right course. I've also recently went to a Project Unified conference in Austin and learned so many new things and have so many new ideas for my school and how to spread the word to my community.

About Malerie Corbell :I am 15 years old. I am a unified partner, youth participant, and I guess you could say a volunteer. I absolutely LOVE being a part of Special Olympics and Project Unify!
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August 11, 2014 | North America: Virginia

How Special Olympics Changed my life

By Matthew S Hall

Special Olympics really changed my life because I now have a whole lot of friends I have made over the years. Special Olympics has taught me how to be a good teammate, a good team player and taught me a lot of confidence in myself.View Story My name is Matt. I am a Special Olympics Athlete for Special Olympics Virginia Area 8. I started playing Special Olympics 8 years ago for Area 18. I play basketball softball and soccer and track and field. Special Olympics really changed my life because I now have a whole lot of friends I have made over the years and I now have a job and I have graduated from high school on time. Special Olympics has taught me how to be a good teammate, a good team player and taught me a lot of confidence in myself. Special Olympics has helped me become a better leader for my teams and it has helped me develop people skills and be a better person in life. Special Olympics has taught me that even though we athletes have huge barriers to overcome everyday that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, that everything and anything is possible and we can overcome anything and every challenge we face everyday. I have learned in Special Olympics that we are all winners. Winning and losing does not matter.

About Matthew S Hall:My name is Matt Hall I am from Roanoke Virginia I am an athlete for Special Olympics Virginia area8. I am the son of a decorated Desert Storm Veteran my father. I graduated from Alleghany High School in Clifton Forge Virginia. I work at Rowe Fine Furniture in Elliston Virginia. I have two dogs Luke and Lucky. I am 29 yrs old.
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August 11, 2014 | North America: New Jersey

My Brown-Eyed Boy and his Quest for Gold

By Maria M. McQuay

Michael admiring his medal he just won!

My son decided he wanted to be a part of Team New Jersey at the USA Games. He worked hard and was selected to be on the team. I can only tell you how excited I was for my special young man.View Story My son Michael is 18 years old and has been an athlete for Special Olympics New Jersey for the past three years. He currently swims for the Jersey Hammerheads Area 5 Swim Team. When Michael began swimming for Special Olympics, he had decided he wanted to be a part of Team New Jersey at the USA Games. He would practice 4 or 5 days a week. During this time, he learned how to dive and he started to learn to swim other strokes besides freestyle and backstroke. He was focused, which is normally difficult for Michael because he has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some days were difficult but Michael persevered and would always complete his training. All of his hard work paid off and he was selected to be on the Aquatics Team for New Jersey. I can only tell you how excited I was for my special young man. Once he learned he was selected, the training only increased. He wanted to be successful. Well he was He won 2 Gold Medals, 1 Silver Medal and 1 Bronze at the USA Games. We are so proud of Michael.

About Maria M. McQuay:I am a mother of 2 children. One 18 year old who swims for the Special Olympics and my Daughter who is 12 who will be on a Unified Soccer team for the Special Olympics this year. I am also an LTP Coordinator for the Jersey Hammerheads Area 5 Swim Team. My husband Mike is the Head Coach. I guess you can say it is a Family affair. We are all involved with Special Olympics.
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Our History

Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
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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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