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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 32 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


June 25, 2015 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

Athlete Leadership: A mission of skill, courage, acceptance and joy

By Daulat Asif Visram

Adil Asif Visram was unable to cope in school. In 1990, he joined a special school and learnt to play different sports. His health improved, he became confident and made many friends.View Story Adil Asif Visram was unable to cope in school. In 1990, he joined a special school and learnt to play different sports. His health improved, he became confident and made many friends. Due to his hard work in 2002, he was selected through the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership program as an Assistant Coach. He says, “The first time I got a salary I was so excited that overnight I grew up from a boy to man.” He was trained to speak and to create awareness at events, schools, media etc. His dedication led to being selected by Special Olympics International as 1 of the 12 international global ambassadors. At the 2007 World Games in China, he gave a welcome speech at the opening ceremony in front of an audience of 70000 people. Adil said, “I was told later by friends and family that all those who saw me on TV cried with pride and joy and praised Special Olympics for organizing such a huge event. I think China and Special Olympics gave hope and joy to the participants and millions of people around the world."

About Daulat Asif Visram:A family member
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June 25, 2015 | Europe Eurasia: Israel

SO Israel- First Athlete Leadership Seminar completed (ALP’s)

By Reuven Astrachan

Sixteen athletes from different sports had completed the first Athlete Leadership seminar that was held by Special Olympics Israel. Their parents were amazed at the big difference they saw in their athletes, before and after the course.View Story Sixteen athletes from different sports had completed the first Athlete Leadership seminar that was held by Special Olympics Israel. The athletes met 6 times at the Wingate Sport Institute, on Fridays, for about 3 hours every meeting. During the seminar the athletes learned how to deliver a short speech. The idea behind this is to have the athletes themselves become the best ambassadors of Special Olympics. During the course, the athletes exercised standing straight before an audience, keeping their speech short (3 minutes-timed by a sand clock), keeping eye contact with their listeners, smiling while speaking, speaking loud and clear. A special session was dedicated to learning about the history of Special Olympics, the great role of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the philosophy of Special Olympics, unique things about the organization (such as Unified Sports, divisioning, Healthy Athlete, Youth Activation, etc.) . The goal was to get them to identify with Special Olympics and get to know the great picture of the organization, and not only focus on their sport, and themselves. Make them be proud to be part of this wonderful organization. When they felt ready ,a video was taken of each one carrying his/her speech before the class. They learned to listen to remarks given by buddies, and learned to remark to others in a friendly way- no offense, while analyzing each speaker.To the last meeting the parents were invited. Each athlete spoke for up to 3 minutes in front of the whole class and parents. Their assignment was to present themselves, the sports they take part in, talk about how Special Olympics made a difference in their lives, and share their future dreams with everyone. The parents were amazed at the big difference they saw in their athletes, before and after the course. They were moved by the new ability the athletes mastered so well. Five of the Athletes will practice their new ability as “athlete spokesmen” for the Israeli delegation at the LA World Games in July.

About Reuven Astrachan:I am National Director & National Sports Director
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June 23, 2015 | Europe Eurasia: Turkey

'We are a happy family'

By Serkan Ovatman

Fatma Ulku Koseoglu, her daughter Kubra and son Ahmet,who plays on an inclusive sports team in Kayseri, Turkey.

The inclusive inclusive sports project in Turkey funded by the King Baudouin Foundation is getting a thumbs up from parents who see their children flourish on Unified Recreation football teams.View Story The inclusive inclusive sports project in Turkey funded by the King Baudouin Foundation is getting a thumbs up from parents who see their children flourish on Unified Recreation football teams. Six hundred children, between 8 and 12, are playing on Unified teams during the 18-month project that is also supported by the Turkish Football Association. Families reported that their children with intellectual disabilities were happier and had an activity that they looked forward to participating in every week. For example, Fatma Ulku Koseoglu, from Kayseri, whose son Ahmet, age 12, is an athlete, said: “Ahmet preferred staying at home and watching TV. He did not want to go to school or play with other children. Once he joined the Unified team, it changed his life. Now, he enjoys being part of the team, attending training, making friends and being active. We are a happy family because of this project.” Ahmet’s sister, Kubra, age 6, likes to come with her mother to watch her brother play.

About Serkan Ovatman:Serkan Ovatman is the sports director assistant, Special Olympics Turkey, and national coordinator of the inclusive sports project funded by the King Baudouin Foundation and supported by the Turkish Football Association.
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June 16, 2015 | Europe Eurasia: Great Britain

Truly Inspirational

By Sophie Connors

Kevin Egan, a true inspiration.

At the age of 12 I was apprehensive about volunteering at the 2009 National Special Olympic Games in Leicester. Having no past experience in working with individuals with learning difficulties I was nervous and unaware of how I would be able to engage in such an event.View Story At the age of 12 I was apprehensive about volunteering at the 2009 National Special Olympic Games in Leicester. Having no past experience in working with individuals with learning difficulties I was nervous and unaware of how I would be able to engage in such an event. Little did I know how influential such an event would be. A young man named Kevin Egan, from Wales, was my main inspiration. After meeting and getting to know him at the 2009 games we lost contact. A year or so after I received a letter, through my county coach, from Kevin, tracking me down. At the event he gave me a special pin badge that I treasure to this day. Not only that but we write too each other and have met up at tournaments. Through such an outstanding event I have realised that more opportunities need to be created and I want to be able to provide them. All the athletes, especially Kevin inspired me to begin studying at the University of Bath, working towards my passion to develop learning disability sport.

About Sophie Connors:My name is Sophie, I'm 18 years old and have a strong passion towards developing learning disability sport. I was lucky enough to be a young volunteer at the GB National Games in 2009 and 2013.
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June 11, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

Special Olympics led me to the "aha moment"

By Cheryl Kehoe Rodgers

Robin Roberts ran with the Flame of Hope through New York City on June 4.

I watched Robin Roberts' segment on Good Morning America, her admiration for the athletes, and the volunteers and organizers and the global ambassadors, was evident. Tears came to my eyes, because, in many ways, she was talking about my son.View Story I recently wrote a column about my son and Special Olympics. I pasted an excerpt, and provided the link to the entire column because it exceeds the character count. I watched Robin Roberts' segment on Good Morning America, her admiration for the athletes, and the volunteers and organizers and the global ambassadors, was evident. Tears came to my eyes, because, in many ways, she was talking about my son, and my son’s coaches and all the good people who devote their time to these inspirational athletes. And that’s when my aha moment hit – if it weren’t for Matthew, would I even care about Special Olympics? Would I even pay attention to this report? Would I even acknowledge that these terrific people exist?

About Cheryl Kehoe Rodgers:I am a news content editor at a daily newspaper outside of Philadelphia -- and the mom of Matthew, a 13-year-old budding teenager. He's participates in bowling and soccer, and I volunteer as a basketball official.
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May 14, 2015 | Africa: Senegal

Senegal hosts Inaugural National Conference on Intellectual Disability

By Annemarie Hill

In honor of the International Day of Disability, Special Olympics Senegal, under the patronage of the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and supported by UNICEF Senegal, hosted the inaugural "National Conference on Intellectual Disability" in Dakar.View Story In December 2014, in honor of the International Day of Disability, Special Olympics Senegal, under the patronage of the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and supported by UNICEF Senegal, hosted the inaugural "National Conference on Intellectual Disability" in Dakar. The event was presided over by the Senegalese Minster of Health and Social Action, The Honorable Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, and 150 delegates including representatives from several Senegalese Ministries as well as UNICEF, African Disability Alliance, American and Dutch Embassies, British Council, and many more. A highlight of the conference was the signing of the first Memorandum of Understanding between Special Olympics Senegal and the Ministry of Health and Social Action, aiming to increase access to health care services for individuals with intellectual disabilities through health screening programming, health education opportunities, capacity building and training of health care providers and much more.

About Annemarie Hill:I am the Director for Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics.
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May 14, 2015 | Africa: Kenya

Catholic Relief Services Awards Grant to Kenya

By Annemarie Hill

Global partner Catholic Relief Services has recently awarded Special Olympics Kenya a grant to support early childhood development for children with intellectual disabilities. The grant will afford Community Health Workers a chance to be trained on the Special Olympics Young Athletes program.View Story Global partner Catholic Relief Services has recently awarded Special Olympics Kenya a grant to support early childhood development for children with intellectual disabilities (ID). The grant will afford Community Health Workers a chance to be trained on the Special Olympics Young Athletes program. which is for youngsters 2 to 7 years old. The community health workers will be provided courses on the importance of play, motor activities etc. for this population. The project commits Special Olympics Kenya to engaging 100 children with ID into early childhood development work in the Kawangware informal settlement, a densely populated informal settlement to the west of Nairobi. This grant forms part of the larger CRS program called THRIVE, which is an early childhood development program funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, whose goal is to enable children under 5 years to thrive under a sustainable culture of care and support. The THRIVE project is an effort to level the playing field for children affected by HIV through targeted interventions and, through this project, will now be inclusive of children with ID.

About Annemarie Hill:I am the Director for Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics.
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May 12, 2015 | Middle East North Africa: Egypt

Athlete's Wish Leads to a National Surprise

By Noha Gaballah

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi posed with Special Olympics athletes before the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Middle East North Africa Regional Games.

On the evening before the opening ceremony for the Middle East-North Africa Regional Games, a Special Olympics basketball player named Abdel Menam Saad El Deen was asked about his hopes and dreams. Menam said he wanted to meet the president of Egypt. To everyone’s surprise, a phone call came in minutes later from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.View Story On the evening before the opening ceremony for the big Middle East-North Africa Regional Games, a Special Olympics basketball player named Abdel Menam Saad El Deen was asked about his hopes and dreams. The question came on a TV program called Cairo 360. Menam said he wanted to meet the president of Egypt, and he added that he would invite the president to the opening ceremony. To everyone’s surprise, a phone call came in minutes later from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. He told Menam he heard his kind invitation. The next day, President El Sisi stunned all the attendees with his presence and kicked off the start of the 8th Special Olympics MENA Regional Games in Cairo. It was a major boost for Special Olympics in the whole region. The games ran from 5 to 11 December 2014. After accepting the invitation, El Sisi hailed and praised the athletes for overcoming all the obstacles they face with love, kindness and dignity. He also thanked the thousands of people attending the opening ceremony in the Air Defense stadium in Cairo and gave a heartfelt speech to all the Special Olympics athletes, their families and the people from each participating country. In his speech, he said, “I’m happy and proud to be among you and will certainly continue to support you forever to end the injustice and intolerance as you have equal rights that should be taken care of as anyone in the society.” He also he announced the construction of four new cities in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia and Giza especially for the people with intellectual disabilities. Afterward, Ayman Abdel Wahab, who is president and managing director of the Middle East-North Africa Region for Special Olympics, expressed his extreme gratitude to the Egyptian president for his help in making the Games a success. On another positive note, Wahab also added that the attendance of President El-Sisi signifies the beginning of a new era of attention and care given to people with intellectual disabilities, not only in Egypt, but in the whole region.

About Noha Gaballah:I am a staff writer for Special Olympics in the Middle East-North Africa office in Cairo, Egypt.
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May 12, 2015 | North America: Southern California

Regrets

By Sami Turnbull

My son the advocate.

One of my goals as a parent is to teach my children to live life with no regrets. There are no do overs only second chances. I am taking my second chance and trying to make up for the lack of compassion and jokes I have made going all the way into my 20's. How many parents or family members heardView Story One of my goals as a parent is to teach my children to live life with no regrets. There are no do-overs, only second chances. I am taking my second chance and trying to make up for the lack of compassion and jokes I have made going all the way into my 20's. How many parents or family members heard one of my jokes that had a friend, child, parent with special needs? I am sure I have hurt people by jokes I have made. How do I know? I have an 11-year-old daughter who is Intellectually Disabled and every time I hear the "Retarded" word used as a slur it rips my gut out. My daughter is better than what they are calling "retarded." Like I said, I could never redo what I have done in the past but I can make up for the future by teaching my children my mistakes and helping others understand the debt of the hurt it causes when used.

About Sami Turnbull:I am the mother to two beautiful children. My daughter, Emma, is 11 and was diagnosed as Intellectually Disabled about 3 years ago. My son, Tyler, is 10 and is Emma's biggest advocate.
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May 12, 2015 | North America: Missouri

The Power of the R-Word

By Taylor

In day to day life, using the r-word is something that you use without thought. By using it to describe an outfit, stranger, or friend I never knew how much I used the word until a peer came up to me and asked me a question. "Why do they call me names like retard? I don't understand."View Story In day to day life, using the r-word is something that you use without thought. By using it to describe an outfit, stranger, or friend I never knew how much I used the word until a peer came up to me and asked me a question. "Why do they call me names like retard? I don't understand." Now let me tell you a little about her. This person was someone that everyone seemed to avoid or didn't talk to, but talked about. When I tell you that I felt so bad that I used that word to describe her, I felt SO bad! I didn't even know what to say. The feeling of her consulting in me when she could have gone to the teacher or family member is still beyond me. I could only say, "That is something beyond me, but I promise I'll get to the bottom of it." I did too. I thought about it all day, week, and still to today about why out of everyone, that she was picked on so much. Something made me so aware of this word that I had to share. This girl was different, and being different isn't retarded. Thank you.

About Taylor:I was brought to this website and cause by being a participate in pageants. The reigning queen has this cause as her platform, or something she promotes. I decided to take the pledge!!!
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Special Olympics Blog

Jean Vanier, a prophet of humility and simplicity, wins!

Today, the Templeton Foundation gave its most prestigious award to my hero, Jean Vanier.  For Linda and our children and me, he has also been our retreat leader, our teacher of humility, our guide. 

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Posted on 2015-03-11 by Tim

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