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.
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
March 29, 2015 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland
Tim Shriver: The people we exclude will eliminate intolerance
By Maureen Rabbitt
In an interview with Spain's leading national newspaper ABC, Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics tells us that Special Olympics is the way for those least valued to heal the world.View Story ▼In an interview with Spain's leading national newspaper ABC, Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics tells us that Special Olympics is the way for those least valued to heal the world.
"Our athletes are Olympic athletes. Many people who come to Special Olympics end up crying. Something inside of us opens. Something so emotional that you can’t avoid. You say to yourself “My fears are gone, I only see a human being competing and it teaches me everything that I know.” It’s amazing!"
Speaking of the World Summer Games taking place in celebrity-filled Los Angeles this summer: "We will demonstrate that the real stars in life are those that, in a simple way, trust human beings in their heart and look to the future with optimism."
On the future: "We are introducing Unified Sports to schools. If you grow up like this, as an adult you won’t see differences, only what comes from inside. It’s not a bad goal, right?"
About Maureen Rabbitt:I am responsible for Communications & Branding at Special Olympics Europe Eurasia.View less ▲
March 29, 2015 | North America: Washington
Why I Love Special Olympics
By Michelle Jorgensen
I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!View Story ▼I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!
About Michelle Jorgensen :View less ▲
March 11, 2015 | Latin America: Mexico
I'm Fernendo Rios and I'm a Champion
By Paola Martinelli
Fernando started participating in athletics, basketball and swimming – his current sport. His family, teachers and friends are very pleased with the accomplishments that Fernando has had thanks to his perseverance and effort.View Story ▼Fernando Rios Duran was born in Villa Avila Camacho, Xicotepec - Puebla on April 7, 1995. His parents are Mrs. Gaona Epiphany Duran and Juan Vargas Rios. Fernando has a mild intellectual disability. When he was born he presented hypoxia, which resulted in disabilities in his motor development. Fernando began his story in Special Olympics in a event organized by the Movement near his school zone. He started participating in athletics, basketball and swimming – his current sport. His family, teachers and friends are very pleased with the accomplishments that
Fernando has had thanks to his perseverance and effort.
Fernando is very excited and he cannot believe that he will be traveling by plane; it is the first time he will travel by plane. He is also very excited to know another country and what motivates him the most is that he will make friends with people from different parts of the world.
About Paola Martinelli:Directora Nacional de Comunicación y MercadotecniaView less ▲
March 05, 2015 | North America: Florida
The Reason I #Respect
By Marlena LaFountain
My father was disabled and had mental handicaps, therefore he felt that he wasn't as "smart" or "good enough" because of how poorly he had been treated for being "slow". Even though I wasn't the one being called it, hearing my dad use that word to describe himself made me so unbelievably sad.View Story ▼The R-Word is a hurtful term that I had to endure throughout my childhood but it wasn't directed at me. It was a word my father used to describe himself because of his disabilities. My father was disabled and had mental handicaps, therefore he felt that he wasn't as "smart" or "good enough" because of how poorly he had been treated for being "slow". Even though I wasn't the one being called it, hearing my dad use that word to describe himself made me so unbelievably sad. I would constantly tell him, "Daddy, you're smart! You know everything, you're my dad!" and he'd smile because of the simple gesture of kindness. The one time I heard someone call him a "retard" for being slow, I got so blood-boiling angry and couldn't understand using such a hateful word against someone who was kind, understanding, so incredibly hard working and the best dad in the world. Any time I hear the use of this word, it makes me so sad or so angry so wiping out the use of the R-Word is very important to me.
About Marlena LaFountain:I'm Marlena. I'm a 29 year old independent author and aromatherapy shop owner from upstate New York. I live in Tampa Florida with my partner. I support equality in ALL walks of life. I promote love. View less ▲
March 03, 2015 | Middle East North Africa: Syria
Alaa is an extraordinary actor, amazing athlete and marvelous Swimmer
By Noha Gaballa
Alla Al-Zybk practices the daily trainings without getting bored; he follows his coach's orders and shows outstanding performance and a disciplined behavior.
Special Olympics plays an important role in improving his skills and abilities.View Story ▼Alla Al-Zybk practices the daily trainings without getting bored; he follows his coach's orders and shows outstanding performance and a disciplined behavior.
Special Olympics plays an important role in improving his skills and abilities. He has participated in many Regional and world games in more than one sport (Aquatics- Athletics) and gained many gold medals and other awards in Morocco, Lebanon, Tunisia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Shanghai.
Alla has many interests and hobbies in which he showed an outstanding level. He has learnt the art of photography after joining several training courses “Damascus was the main idea of his pictures”. His sister said that Ministry of Culture had kept Alla's picture and put it in a catalog.
He also paints and has a special skill in blending and merging colors. Moreover, he takes care of small details as if he is taking a photo, not just painting.
Alla became famous after his role in "Behind the sun" series which was aired in the holy month Ramadan.
About Noha Gaballa:Noha Gaballa: SO MENA StaffView less ▲
February 19, 2015 | Why I Support Special Olympics
Heart of a champion
By Katie Williams
Special Olympics has changed my life. I've been able to meet people all over the world and the United States. I've been to the world and national games. I'm a world and national champion swimmer.View Story ▼Special Olympics has changed my life. I've been able to meet people all over the world and the United States. I've been to the world and national games. I'm a world and national champion swimmer. I've met Olympians Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin and Peter Vanderkaay and Garrett Webber Gale and Allison Schmitt and the mother of Missy Franklin. It's been a dream to see so many things. I've gotten my younger brother involved with Special Olympics with doing fundraisers though the state. It's been a dream come true...
About Katie Williams :My name is Katie Williams I'm 36 I'm an athlete that has competed in volleyball and swimming I'm a 2011 world games gold and silver medalist and 2014 national champion. Swimmer in the 100 free.... View less ▲
February 09, 2015 | Middle East North Africa: Libya
Libyan swimmer, Noman Al-Sadik Felfel (The World Champion) and his journey of achievements
By Noha Gaballah
Noman was born in 1971 with ID (DS) in a family of 11 members. He started practicing swimming since his early childhood, at the age of 4.
He is very sociable and has a sense of humor that takes the heart of whoever sees his kind spirit and cheerful smile that does not leave his lips.View Story ▼Noman was born in 1971 with Down syndrome in a family of 11 members. He started practicing swimming in his early childhood, at the age of 4.
He is very sociable and has a sense of humor that takes the heart of whoever sees his kind spirit and cheerful smile that does not leave his lips.
He was the first athlete to join Special Olympics Libya in 1998 and from here started the journey of his consecutive achievements:-
His first world participation was in the World Summer Games in the United States. He grabs the attention and makes a memorable achievement for Libya after winning 2 silver medals. This success was a superior matter for the advancement of sports of people with disabilities in Libya. After that, he participated in many successive regional and World games whereby he won many gold & silver medals in Tunisia, UAE, Syria, China and Greece.
After that, he was chosen as the global messenger for Special Olympics Libya.
He took parts in many international conferences where he was introduced as a role model for people with intellectual disabilities.
About Noha Gaballah:I am an editor with Special Olympics in the Middle East-North Africa office in Cairo.View less ▲
December 31, 2014 | SOI General: Headquarters
New York Times: An Oasis of Care
By Lynn Aylward
Trey Kramer gets compassionate quality health care
Special Olympics Global Medical Adviser Doctor Matt Holder and the clinic he operates with for people with intellectual disabilities in Kentucky are featured in a gripping story in today’s New York Times.View Story ▼Special Olympics Global Medical Adviser Doctor Matt Holder and the clinic he operates with for people with intellectual disabilities in Kentucky are featured in a gripping story in the Dec. 31 New York Times. Investigative reporter Dan Barry, who addressed a joint seminar of Special Olympics and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry in June and frequently covers the stories of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, wrote the story. It follows a day in the life of Trey Kramer, a young man with an intellectual disability, and his mother, Mimi, as they visit the Lee Specialty, one of the very few facilities “designed exclusively to provide medical and dental treatment — and a sense of welcome — to people with intellectual disability.” People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most medically underserved populations in the US and the rest of the world. The story speaks frankly about the reasons why people with intellectual disabilities don’t get good health care: in addition to medical professionals not receiving training in the health needs of these patients, doctors and dentists may discourage patients with intellectual disabilities and their families from seeking care at their offices because they are perceived as “too disruptive in the waiting room, too long in the examining room.” But at the Lee Specialty Clinic, which was built by the state of Kentucky at a cost of $4.7 million and will mostly operate on Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and related medical billings, offers full service to families accustomed to embarking on odysseys in search of health care.
About Lynn Aylward:I work in external health communications for Special Olympics.View less ▲
December 31, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics
By Emily Walzak
Special Olympics has changed my life. This is my 3rd season in figure skating and I can't say enough good things about what Special Olympics has done for me.View Story ▼Special Olympics has changed my life. This is my 3rd season in figure skating and I can't say enough good things about what Special Olympics has done for me. They've given me the chance to train and compete and live out my dreams and passion of figure skating. My coaches have been amazing in helping me be the best skater I can be; and making my dreams come true. They've coached me to 2 Regional championships, where I got the silver medal; and in February 2015; I will be traveling to Kamloops British Columbia for the Special Olympics BC Winter Games; and then on to Prince George for the Canada Winter Games. I never thought I would make the Provincial Team but with a lot of hard work, determination, and the support of my coaches and family; it became possible. My next dream is to make the National and World Teams. I've learned a lot from Special O about how to be an athlete, to train, be healthy, and most of all; to not give up on your passion and dreams!
About Emily Walzak:24 year old figure skater for Special Olympics who competes for Team British Columbia. View less ▲
December 24, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics
Friends before Coach
By Tara Power
2010 came as any other year would, with the promise I would accomplish and change and become a better me. The only thing different about 2010 is that my life was about to change forever.View Story ▼2010 came as any other year would, with the promise I would accomplish and change and become a better me. The only thing different about 2010 is that my life was about to change forever. I started work with a young girl my age and we became the best of friends, sisters you could say, who by chance was also a Special Olympics athlete. After only a short amount of time I became a volunteer, only a year later I became a coach. I laughed, I cried, I've had the best time of my life. I quickly came to realize that while I helped the Special Olympics athletes, they were helping me. I had new meaning to my life, I had another reason to wake up in the morning. I now had purpose, and I belonged to something much bigger. A family. I thank God every day that he has given me the chance to make a difference in so many lives, and I thank him for giving me the chance to become the friend of the one person who would change my life forever.
Coach with SOCB
Head coach Young Athletes Corner Brook
About Tara Power:View less ▲
Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.Learn More ››
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About Special Olympics in North America
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