Who We Are

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  • A Movement of Millions

    Special Olympics is not just a sports organization devoted to people with intellectual disabilities (ID). It's a worldwide movement of individuals, families, coaches, volunteers, sponsors, professional athletes and celebrities. They all came together at the recent 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. All sharing a common goal: to improve the lives of people with ID.

  • The Dream of World Games

    There are thousands of Special Olympics events every year in communities around the world. Every two years, athletes from all 170-plus Special Olympics countries are invited to take part in summer or winter world games.  Ioane Luka (#709) was one of the athletes from Samoa who came; he won his heat in the 100-meter dash. It is a dream come true for the athletes who can attend.

  • People Sharing the Joy of Competition

    Every Special Olympics competition comes together with athletes with intellectual disabilities, volunteer coaches who have trained and nurtured them, event volunteers who've planned and put on the competition and family members who support and cheer. As in this bowling competition in Virginia, there are often fans and volunteers who get swept up in excitement and share the joy.

  • Sponsors Support Key Programs

    Every Special Olympics athlete participates for free. Donations by individuals make up a big part of the annual budget. Corporate sponsors, such as Mattel Corp., support core programs, such as Young Athletes, a skills program for children with ID under 7 years old.

  • Sponsors Support Key Programs

    Every Special Olympics athlete participates for free. Donations by individuals make up a big part of the annual budget. Corporate sponsors, such as Finish Line, support core programs, such as Young Athletes, a skills program for children with ID under 7 years old, and the STRIVE program, which first measure

  • Sponsors Support Key Programs

    Every Special Olympics athlete participates for free. Donations by individuals make up a big part of the annual budget. Corporate sponsors, such as Mattel Corp., support core programs, such as Young Athletes, a skills program for children with ID under 7 years old.

  • Event Volunteers

    Special Olympics athletes get ready for competitions by training over weeks, months and years. They take their sports seriously, and so do Special Olympics game organizers. Volunteers who staff the competitions and other events receive training to ensure they know their roles and responsibilities. That allows the athletes to focus on their sports and their performance, just as it should be.

  • Volunteer Health Care Professionals

    Special Olympics has developed an impressive and wide-reaching health program that brings together volunteer health-care professionals around the world to provide comprehensive health-care examinations to our athletes for free. The program is expanding to be a more permanent and influential presence in our athlete's lives. The thousands of volunteer professionals range from students to accomplished professionals with decades of experience.

  • Expert Coaches

    With more than 4.5 million athletes worldwide, Special Olympics needs a huge and strong group of coaches. They are all volunteers,  like Anu Maria Castro Diaz of Mexico, who love sports and love coaching.

  • Coaches Encourage and Celebrate

    There is so much to celebrate in sport. It might be a gold medal, a team win or a personal best performance. The coach is there to cheer and share the joy.

  • Youth Leaders and Participants

     One of our most successful programs focuses on the leaders of tomorrow in an exciting, fun and deeply satisfying unified environment. For Special Olympics, involving and inspiring young people in high school and college is essential to its continued growth. The youth leaders, both with and without intellectual disabilities, bring enthusiasm and creativity to their activities.

  • Advice from Top Athletes Around the World

    Olympic champions like Michael Phelps and professional athletes love to support Special Olympics because it promotes the love of sport. It's a rare moment when anyone gets advice from a world leader in sports. It's especially valuable for our athletes.

  • Athlete Leaders

    Many people with intellectual disabilities have no opportunity to learn and show leadership. Special Olympics takes care to grow leaders among its athletes. And our athletes, like Deon Namiseb of Namibia, take to it and thrive.

  • Pursuing Personal Bests

    The focus of Special Olympics is our athletes, all of whom have an intellectual disability. Special Olympics athletes, like Kang Le of Virginia, are competitors. They want to win. They measure success not only by the medals they win but the steady progress of their best performances.

    Photo by Will Schermerhorn
  • Families, the First Supporters

    Strong, supportive families are essential to the success of Special Olympics. A global network of family leaders gives advice and help to the millions of family members of Special Olympics athletes around the world.

  • Unified Teammates

    Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability, which makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all.

  • The Law Enforcement Torch Run

    The idea of a Special Olympics torch run came from a police department in Wichita, Kansas. It's now the biggest single fundraising source for Special Olympics, and it still is run by law enforcement officers around the world.

  • International Board of Directors

    Our Board of Directors is made up of a diverse and distinguished group of leaders from government, sports, health, education, business and the worldwide Special Olympics movement.