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


October 27, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

Believing In My Dreams

By Haseeb Abbasi

At National Games 2014 Karachi

Special Olympics Pakistan has broken the most difficult barrier of my life, my voice. Being autistic, verbal language was tough. My confidence to speak has improved tremendously since day one.View Story Hello, my name is Muhammad Haseeb Abbasi.I am sixteen years of age. I’m a proud Special Olympics Pakistan athlete. I recently went to Karachi to participate in Special Olympics Pakistan National Games 2014-2015. I took part in 10 km cycling competition and won a silver medal. To me winning or losing means you are still at the TOP, which is what Special Olympics, is all about. There is nothing to lose here. Special Olympics Pakistan has broken the most difficult barrier of my life was my voice. Being autistic, verbal language was tough. It was difficult for me to speak up for myself. My confidence to speak has improved tremendously since day one when my Coach Arshad Javaid believed in me and provided me with an opportunity on the stage with a microphone to introduce myself with fellow athletes of Special Olympics Pakistan. The biggest reward of my life from Special Olympics is that they have given me voice and I cannot imagine my life without Special Olympics Pakistan.

About Haseeb Abbasi:my story is above attached
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October 27, 2014 | North America: New York

one word-OVERCOME

By lillian chaparro

We can conquer all obstacles and not let challenges get the best of us on the issues we face every day of our lives. Special Olympics is the answer.View Story We can conquer all obstacles and not let challenges get the best of us on the issues we face every day of our lives. Especially on goals we want to reach.We have hopes and dreams on what we want to happen and come true! Special Olympics is the answer and helps our dreams come true and makes people we're close with very proud! I'm glad to be part of it. Thanks.

About lillian chaparro:I'm a very friendly person I like to get along with people and I have a loving family.
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October 14, 2014 | North America: Maryland

Adam Hays, the Cyclist

By Adam Hays

Adam Hays overcomes hurdles on Cyclocross event and in life with determination.

Special Olympics athlete Adam Hays joined his brother's cyclocross team, where his team viewed him as a cyclist, not as someone with a disability. "I now have a new community of friends that see me for who I am, not my label," Adam said.View Story Social interaction is very important. Especially to those with intellectual disabilities. For many years people with intellectual disabilities were treated with little respect and isolated. Then Eunice Kennedy Shriver came along and began Special Olympics and gave athletes a place to shine and feel respected in the community! This is where I met new friends and learned to cycle. I have been a Special Olympics Maryland athlete for 19 years and I ride 1,200 miles a year around my home town. My younger brother, Kevin, races Cyclocross, a crazy sport that involves a lot of all-terrain riding. One night he asked me if I would ever try Cyclocross. I said yes. He asked his coach if I could compete in a race. I not only competed in a race last weekend but was presented with a jersey kit from his team! This made me excited AND accepted because his team viewed me as a cyclist, not as someone with a disability. I now have a new community of friends that see me for who I am, not my label.

About Adam Hays:Work part time as Communication Assistant at Special Olympics Maryland. Athlete for over 19 years. Live in Frederick, MD
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October 14, 2014 | North America: South Dakota

My Little Sister

By Sydney Powers

1st Place Volleyball - 2014 State Summer Games

I didn't like knowing that my only little sister is different and she can't do things like I could. I kinda felt that there was something "wrong" with her but my family didn't know it till she was 8. Then, my whole world changed.View Story My little sister, Delaney, has autism. I used to distance myself from her because I didn't like knowing that my only little sister is different and she can't do things like I could. I kinda felt that there was something "wrong" with her but my family didn't know it till she was 8. Then, my whole world changed. She made me see that not everything works in one certain way. She got me involved in her life and now if I go a day without seeing her, I want to cry because that's just how much I love and appreciate her.I guess her autism was a blessing, kinda. She inspired me to get involved in Special Olympics AND become a volunteer/coach. She inspired me to set my goals for the future. It used to be impossible to go places and not worry about what Delaney would do, but now she a completely changed girl in the short time of just one year. To me, she is my everything. We are the closest of sisters as it gets and Special Olympics Brookings helped us to be this way. They are a part of our family.

About Sydney Powers:I'm a high school student at Brookings High School. I just got involved with Special Olympics Brookings in the past year (2013) and they are basically my other family. I love seeing the athletes in the hallways or around town because they are always so happy to see you to. I'm very glad that I'm able to be apart of this team.
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October 09, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

My experience as an Athlete Leader

By Jasmine Sharif Athlete Boardmember Pakistan

Me giving an PowerPoint presentation

I really enjoy being in the Athlete Leadership program. It gives me more confidence, I have made friends and I am able to speak more than before.View Story Hi my name is Jasmine Sharif. I have been involved in Special Olympics for 8 years as an athlete. In 2007, I became part of Athlete Leadership Program . In 2011 I went to Singapore for the athlete leadership conferences. In 2014 went to Malaysia for the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Input Council conferences and I was chosen as its co-chair person along with Ben Haack We had Health Ambassadors I really enjoy being in the Athlete Leadership program. It gives me more confidence, I have made friends and I am able to speak more than before. On the EKS Day, I also gave a PowerPoint presentation of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver's life and the history of Special Olympics. Thank you Special Olympics

About Jasmine Sharif Athlete Boardmember Pakistan:My name is Jasmine Sharif I am an athlete Board member and serve on the input council for Special Olympics in Asia Pacific.
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October 07, 2014 | North America: New York

We Are Beautiful

By lillian chaparro

I just started Special Olympics about one month ago and I'm very pleased to be an athlete and be with other athletes that I'm friends with and I'm getting to know.View Story I just started Special Olympics about one month ago and I'm very pleased to be an athlete and be with other athletes that I'm friends with and I'm getting to know. I'm honored to have people cheering me on even when I'm having tough times and when things don't go well. I'm getting support from my fellow athletes and from the volunteers. I'm very happy to have acceptance and respect from this great organization.I'm very proud to be an athlete! Thank you!

About lillian chaparro:I'm from New York. I've been living in Manhattan my whole life and I have a loving family.
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October 06, 2014 | North America: Southern California

Winning the Gold As a Team

By Kari Craig

Winning the Gold for the first time! Southern California Special Olympics Softball Team the Aztecs

Our first tournament was last October. We all came together as a team and decided that the tournament coming up was going to be for a teammate of ours who was very sick in the hospital.View Story Our first softball tournament was last October. Just a few weeks prior to the tournament, we heard some unfortunate news about one of our players, Bobby. He was in the hospital and not doing well. We all came together as a team and decided that the tournament coming up was going to be for our teammate who was in the hospital. We all wanted to show our support for him. We wore armbands, hats, & shirts that said “Bobby”. At the beginning of each game, we huddled in and chanted his name. That day we played two games and ended up winning, bringing us to the Fall games. In December we had the Fall games softball tournament, it was a hot weekend but we ended up winning the entire tournament. It was not an easy win. As a team, we lost our teammate Bobby, who passed away. We lost our head coach, so all the coaches remaining were coaching for the first time. We had a few medical scares, too. But by the end of the season we all felt like family.

About Kari Craig:The Special Olympics came into my life on July 25, 2013 when I started volunteering as a coach for softball Southern California in the fall 2013. With the season coming to a close, I've been reflecting on the past few months and realizing that our team's experience is one that needs to be shared with the world! When I began the process of applying to volunteer, I had no idea what to expect, but I wanted to become more involved with the community and volunteer my hours. That's when a friend told me about Special Olympics; she had a brother who volunteered. Allie Marquis, the volunteer and program manager contacted me after I submitted my application, and on August 2nd I showed up for our first practice. Our team consisted of 20 players and 7 coaches. I quickly learned that we had players who had been in the league for many years and understood the game better than most of the coaches. We all bonded very quickly and the chemistry on the team was undeniable.
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October 03, 2014 | North America: Georgia

Georgia's Jon Paul Thomas Welcomed by Athlete Peers and Tries Sports for the First Time

By Max Ellis

Jon Paul Thomas, Special Olympics Georgia athlete who lives in Macon Georgia

Jon Paul joined Special Olympics when he was in high school. Because of his grades, he wore the gold Beta Club cord at graduation. Before Special Olympics, he had not participated in sports before.View Story Jon Paul joined Special Olympics when he was in high school. He was labeled "high functioning" and had good grades in regular education classes. Because of his grades, he wore the gold Beta Club cord at graduation. But, Jon Paul had no interest in social skills, said his Mom Liz Ferguson. He was a couch potato and was only interested in video games. Before Special Olympics, he had not participated in sports before. He made fast friends with athletes who welcomed him into their group. Soon, Liz was shocked and amazed to hear her son initiate contact with his teammates after a few months, and later with the coaches. He became very good at bowling, and then competed in tennis, bocce, basketball, softball, and floor hockey. He doesn't care about medals. More so, he loves the traveling, staying in hotels, and hanging out with Special Olympic groups. Jon Paul has also given speeches at seminars. "I love the wonderful positive changes Special Olympics has made in his life," his Mom said.

About Max Ellis:Max is a senior sports and programs manager at Special Olympics Georgia.
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October 02, 2014 | North America: Indiana

A Heart of A Champion...

By Kathleen Williams

Hello my name is Katie Williams. I'm 36 years old. I've been involved in Special Olympics 25 years and during the 25 years I've been competing in swimming.View Story Hello my name is Katie Williams. I'm 36 years old. I've been involved in Special Olympics 25 years and during the 25 years I've been competing in swimming.. I've also attended the 2011 World Summer Games. I was the first female at my first World Games to win gold for Team USA in Athens, and I also went to the National Games, and I won the national title in the 100 freestyle in a personal lifetime best. Special Olympics has changed my life. I've accepted to be a champion and I also take losing with pride and with a smile. I've been able to meet Olympic Gold medalist Ryan Lochte and show him my medals as well as his Florida coach Greg Troy. It's been my honor to be part in such a wonderful thing. I'll be helping welcome the 500 athletes to Indianapolis camp for 2015 World Games soon. I'm thrilled and excited and can't be more proud of Special Olympics. It's been my honor being a part of something great. Thank you all...

About Kathleen Williams:My Name is Katie Williams I'm 36 And I'm a Proud World Games Olympic Champion and Proud USA Games National Champion... I've been Involved in Special Olympics 25 years and I can't be More Proud to be apart of it and I Love the Athletes as they're Family to me I Thank the Coaches I've met along the way Who have given me So Much Pride it's been My Honor thank u all :)
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October 02, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Successful partnership continues to generate sports opportunities for athletes

By Kada Delic-Selimovic

Special Olympics athletes who won medals at the recent European Games in Antwerp were recognized during Opening Ceremonies.

A successful partnership between Special Olympics and a local disability group in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to flourish. Together, Special Olympics Bosnia and Herzegovina and OAZA organized a competition for over 400 Special Olympics athletes.View Story A successful partnership between Special Olympics and a local disability group in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to flourish. Together, Special Olympics Bosnia and Herzegovina and OAZA organized a competition for over 400 Special Olympics athletes. The event, the fourth large competition to be jointly organized, took place in Sarajevo from 25-28 September 2014 in Sarajevo. On 27 September, the day’s sports events were dedicated to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Special Olympics athletes competed in seven sports. The Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) also was organized for those individuals with severe intellectual disabilities and 86 people took part. The games were funded through an initiative that OAZA has with SHIA, a network of Swedish disability groups funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and FIFH Malmo, a Swedish disability sports organization.

About Kada Delic-Selimovic:Kada Delic-Selimovic is National Director of Special Olympics Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.  read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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