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


July 25, 2014 | North America: Arkansas

So what 'I HAVE DOWN SYNDROME"

By Karen Bradshaw, Proud Mom and Supporter

Special Olympics is a part of my son's life and will always be. Thanks to the organization for making my son feel that he can compete in sports!View Story Wanted to go back 22 years to where SPECIAL OLYMPICS first entered Blake's life. As he turned 30 this month and still competes. Special Olympics has meant everything to Blake as he loves all sports. Not being able to compete in the "typical" sports through public school, softball throw and 50 meter run came into this little boy's life and the rest is nothing but awesome!!!!! He then went to swimming, which was self taught by me and his father, and excelled for 3 years until, at the age of 16 found PowerLifting and the last 15 years has competed at Area and State levels breaking all kinds of records for himself. By being a powerlifter he has worked out at a local World's Gym for 10 years meeting all kinds of people whom have embraced and shared in his accomplishments. As a mom, I could ask for nothing better!!!! Special Olympics is a part of his life and will always be!!!!! Thanks to the organization for making my son feel that he CAN COMPETE IN SPORTS!!!! Yes he can and has!!!

About Karen Bradshaw, Proud Mom and Supporter:I am a very proud Mom, that has seen her son (Blake) go from a 8 year old softball thrower to a medaled athlete in Powerlifting the last 22 years. WOW, what an impact having Special Olympics has made in his life.
Share
View less ▲

July 23, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Philippines

Damian Lillard meets Special Olympics Philippines athletes

By Karyn Tan

Damian Lillard (2nd from right) together with Special Olympics Philippinea athletes

Special Olympics Ambassador and NBA star Damian Lillard met a group from Special Olympics Philippines at the NBA Cafe Manila yesterday. Lillard is in the Philippines for an all star game against the Philippines National team.View Story Special Olympics Ambassador and NBA star Damian Lillard met a group from Special Olympics Philippines at the NBA Cafe Manila yesterday. Lillard is in the Philippines for an all star game against the Philippines National team. Notes Kaye Samson, National Director of SO Philippines: "Damian immediately went out of the crowd to meet our athletes and 'fist-bump' each of them.He was very gracious and happy to receive a Special Olympics Philippines shirt and pin. He didn't hand them over to his assistant but instead hung it over his shoulder and walked around with it." Last week, Damian called out a Twitter troll that made fun of a Special Olympics athlete he accompanied to the ESPYs.

About Karyn Tan:Communications Manager for the Asia Pacific region
Share
View less ▲

July 21, 2014 | North America: Tennessee

Special Olympics changed a life!

By Betsy Gentry

On the way home from the Special Olympics Games,Bryan Gentry kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes. He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory.View Story Special Olympics changed Bryan Gentry's life! In 1999 Bryan’s daughter, Brooke, was a senior in high school working as a peer tutor in a special education class at Bradley Central High School, Cleveland, Tennessee. Brooke was planning her future and helping special needs students was her passion. She also loved working with the Special Olympics. One day Brooke received a brochure regarding the International Special Olympics Games being held at Raleigh, North Carolina, close to Bryan’s hometown. The family decided to take our family vacation and be volunteers at Special Olympics Games. Brooke played tennis so the family signed up to work the tennis venue in North Carolina. When they arrived at the tennis courts, Brooke was assigned to work with the players and assigned Bryan and Betsy to help with parking. After about 15 minutes working in the parking lot, Bryan said, ‘I do not want to be with cars. I want to be with people.’ So he ran and jumped on the tennis court with Brooke and started helping her. On the way home he kept talking about how he loved working with the Special Olympic athletes! People had asked him is this your job? Bryan said, ‘No. I’m in the business world.” He had tasted something far more rewarding than the thrill of victory, Bryan found himself drawn to a lifestyle of sacrifice unlike anything he ever experienced in all his years as a businessman. When the family returned home, Bryan made a life changing decision. He quit the business world and began working with special needs students. First as a social worker, then principal of a private school for adults with disabilities and after retirement he founded, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, a recreational activity for adults with disabilities. Bryan wanted to provide his extended family with a social outlet on Friday nights, which was as much about showing love as it was about filling a need.

About Betsy Gentry:Betsy Gentry supervises special education student teachers at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. She is a retired Work-based Learning Coordinator for Ooltewah High School in Ooltewah, Tennessee and a past Transition Coordinator for the Bradley County Schools in Cleveland, TN, and a Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager. She has worked with the Project Discovery curriculum both in implementing it with students with special needs at the local level and in training schools and districts nationwide on its use for nearly ten years. As a past Tennessee Council for Exceptional Children Special Educator of the Year, Mrs. Gentry is an expert on transition issues and a frequent state and national speaker.
Share
View less ▲

July 21, 2014 | North America: New York

Special Olympics

By Katy Sanchez

In high school I really didn't have any friends at all. I used to be shy and also not really know what to say to other people. Special Olympics really helped me find a lot of friends.View Story In high school I really didn't have any friends at all. I used to be shy and also not really know what to say to other people. After I joined Special Olympics starting in 2007, it really helped me find a lot of friends and find my voice. I have overcome a lot of obstacles in my life but the Special Olympics staff has and still helps me today. I am an athlete from Special Olympics New York and I am also a Global Messenger, too. People say I am a good speaker and a great athlete. My two goals are to compete in the World Games one day and also be International Global Messenger.

About Katy Sanchez:My name is Katy Sanchez. The sports I play are soccer, floor hockey, basketball, track and field, cycling and now a Triathlon. I just earned a bronze medal in the Triathlon at Special Olympics USA Games during June 14 to 21st! I like to hang out with friends, go to the movies, play on my computer.
Share
View less ▲

July 17, 2014 | Africa: South Africa

Special Olympics Brings Hope to Hoima

By Lauren Wyndham Quin

This is only the beginning: Special Olympics Uganda will be returning to Hoima with athlete leaders to offer on-going support to this community in the fight against malaria. Stay tuned!View Story On 12 July 2014, community members gathered in the western town of Hoima to lead Special Olympics Uganda athletes in an awareness walk to the central sports centre, where athletes would participate in their first Regional Games. Alongside the athletics, volleyball and soccer, Local Government Health Officials provided information to caretakers on preventative measures against cholera and malaria, in an area where infections are rife and effects devastating. Special Olympics staff members were also invited to community talk shows and interviews to engage in discussions that would bring about a new perspective on inclusion and access to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities. But this is only the beginning. Since Special Olympics Uganda are recipients of the new Expanding Health Grant they will be returning to Hoima, with athlete leaders, to offer on-going support to this community in the fight against malaria. Stay tuned as we follow Special Olympics Uganda's journey of creating real impact and lasting change in Hoima.

About Lauren Wyndham Quin:Healthy Athletes, Special Olympics Africa Region
Share
View less ▲

July 12, 2014 | North America: Oklahoma

Hard life till Special Olympics

By Joshu

I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.View Story I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.

About Joshu:I'm Joshua Smith. I'm from Tulsa Oklahoma. I'm going on 30 years old. My life was not perfect.
Share
View less ▲

July 12, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Australia

Smiling despite the storm

By jack mcneilly

On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams.View Story On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams. The end result was a 1-0 win to the Philippines. After the game I took the Australian players into our opponents rooms, I had good reason to do this. Barely 4 weeks prior to the game the Philippines experienced a natural disaster.Typhoon Haiyan, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded,it devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, on November 8, 2013. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,268 people in that country alone. Haiyan is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall, and unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. Even four weeks after the Typhoon bodies were still being found. Despite their country being a disaster zone the Philippine players could still smile, clearly my proudest moment as a coach..

About jack mcneilly:Im jack McNeilly coach of the Australia 2 team who took part in the Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle. My football team took on the Philippines after the game i took my boys into the opposition rooms. I told my players about the big storm that had hit the Philippines 4 weeks earlier, we all agreed that we just had to wish them. I'm coaching the Victorian SO football team in October at the national games, I live in Wangaratta and have a wife and two children.
Share
View less ▲

July 10, 2014 | North America: Maryland

The Importance of Mrs. Shriver!!!

By Cathi Holibaugh

Many years ago my daughter was competing in Summer Games at the University of Maryland for aquatics. I was sitting in the stands with the athletes waiting for them to be staged when I saw Mrs. Shriver.View Story Many years ago my daughter was competing in Summer Games at the University of Maryland for aquatics. I was sitting in the stands with the athletes waiting for them to be staged when I saw Mrs. Shriver across the pool greeting the swimmers as the completed their races. I looked at the athletes and said, "Do you see that beautiful women in the yellow pants? She is the reason you are here today!" No reply. "Ok her daughter is on TV. She is Maria Shriver!" No reply. "OK her son in law is in the movies...he's the Terminator!" All of a sudden they got so excited about seeing her!! I had the honor of meeting Mrs. Shriver in the hallway afterwards and told her the story. Her reply with a big smile on her face was, "I really am important aren't I?" We both laughed and I hugged her and thanked her for all she has done for my daughter and all the athletes!!! It was a special day!

About Cathi Holibaugh:My daughter, Tammy has had the honor of being a Special Olympic athlete for 19 years. I volunteer and coach bowling or our county.
Share
View less ▲

July 10, 2014 | North America: South Carolina

Bringing Home Gold and a New Pair of Glasses

By Leigh Cheatham

Kevin shoots a layup during the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. Photo credit - 2014 Special Olympics USA Games

Kevin Sessions, 19, and his dad and coach Warren Sessions found that a trip to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes helped to make Team South Carolina’s goal of gold a possibility at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.View Story Kevin Sessions, 19, and his dad and coach Warren Sessions found that a trip to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes helped to make Team South Carolina’s goal of gold a possibility at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.Kevin had been having some trouble in basketball practice for a few weeks leading up to Games. At first, Warren thought it was just a bad day, but the problem persisted. Kevin told his dad that things were just blurry and he couldn't see clearly.  The first chance they got at USA Games, Warren took Kevin and his brother and teammate Christopher over to the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes clinic. Turns out, Kevin has some spots behind his eyes, which could be the beginning stages of glaucoma.  He was also diagnosed with nearsightedness.  Kevin was fit for glasses onsite and told to pick them up the next day. There was a big basketball game scheduled for the next day and Warren asked the Opening Eyes volunteers if there was any way to get the glasses before Team South Carolina played... Twenty minutes later, Kevin could see clearly. The next day was the big game. The team warmed up on the court and Warren immediately could tell the difference in Kevin’s shooting.  During that game, with his new glasses on, Kevin scored 12 points! Kevin and his team went on to win gold. See Chris in his new glasses in the front row in a photo taken after his team cut down the net.Warren says that it couldn't have happened without the generosity of the team at Healthy Athletes. "It was great to see someone get to the level to help your child. Plus it totally boosted his confidence level."Kevin was one of 1,079 athletes who completed free Healthy Athletes exams at the 2014 USA Games. Based on the exams at Opening Eyes alone, 49 percent of athletes - including Kevin - who went through Opening Eyes received or will receive prescription eyewear.

About Leigh Cheatham:Director of Communications, Special Olympics South Carolina
Share
View less ▲

July 02, 2014 | North America: Michigan

An Unspoken Bond

By Aaron Mills

A year ago, Tate Levendoski and Leoudy Sosa didn't know each other or have a way to communicate with each other. That didn't last long!View Story A year ago, Tate Levendoski and Leoudy Sosa didn't know each other or have a way to communicate with each other. The two met through Project UNIFY. Tate was paired with Leoudy, who also happens to be deaf, for Unified bowling. The two formed an instant bond despite the fact that they had to overcome a major language barrier. "I didn't know sign language, but through the hallways we gave each other high fives," recalls Tate. The pair's inability to communicate didn't last long, though. "Leoudy showed me a sign language website," says Tate. "Every night before bed, before I go to school, whenever I have some time, I go through and learn new signs. And ever since then, I'm signing with him and...we've been talking back and forth." Tate and Leoudy represented Team Michigan in Unified bowling at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey, winning the gold medal in their division! But the medals they brought home are nothing compared to the lifelong friendship they formed.

About Aaron Mills:Aaron Mills is the Public Relations and Social Media Manager at Special Olympics Michigan.
Share
View less ▲

Our History

Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
Learn More ››


Who We Are

We are athletes, families, celebs, volunteers and more.
See Slideshow ››



Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

Help us reach out to one more athlete.

Donate »

Find events near you and learn about volunteer opportunities at one of our 220 worldwide locations.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU »

Our Supporters

The Christmas Records TrustFunding Special Olympics work worldwide.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Annenberg FoundationSupports our goals for coaches’ excellence.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Bank of AmericaSupports Special Olympics Team USA.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Coca-ColaOfficial global partner of Special Olympics.
Learn More »


Our Supporters

ESPNWorldwide support for Unified Sports.Learn More »


Our Supporters

EssilorOfficial global supplier of ophthalmic lenses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Health One GlobalGlobal health data technology partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Hear the WorldSupplies hearing aids to our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

AIPSGlobal Impact Partner for Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Lions ClubSupports access to quality eye care.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MattelSupports various youth programs.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MTM RecognitionSupplier of awards and medals for our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Perfect Sense DigitalSpecial Olympics' leading digital partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Procter & GambleProvides marketing campaigns that support our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SafewayRaises funds and awareness for people with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SàfiloSupplies optical frames and sunglasses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

UNICEFProvides greater inclusion of children with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Y&RPowering our global youth marketing campaign.Learn more »


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

go to blog »


*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan