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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


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. Tara Power Coach with SOCB Head coach Young Athletes Corner Brook

About Tara Power:
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December 24, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Poland

Ski Camp in Zapone gave important life lesson

By Cristian Turcan

Thank you to all the organisers!

This year, me and my son, Alexander, took part for the first time at an event organized by Special Olympics in ski camp at Zakopane – Poland. Here we learnt that being different does not mean better or less good, but simply different.View Story This year, me and my son, Alexander, took part for the first time at an event organized by Special Olympics in ski camp at Zakopane – Poland. Here we learnt that being different does not mean better or less good, but simply different. The fact that Alexander was able to put the skis on his feet, like any other child, that he was excited about the snow, the air, the move was for us the best gift for the Christmas holidays. Not athletic performance gave necessarily the measure of this project, but the human performance of organizers and volunteers who have been with the children on the sky slope and activities room. Encouragement and support received by the children, they offered them invaluable support to move forward and to overcome limitations. Each day spent in the camp was a life lesson for all present and we hope to be for all who learn about this wonderful project. I've learned that love and understanding is the universal language, no matter what country you live.

About Cristian Turcan:I am a father of Special Olympics young athlete Alexander.
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December 19, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics

Special Olympics turned my daughter into an athlete

By Karen Reznek

When my daughter attended her first swim practice, the coaches referred to the swimmers as athletes. Her sister used to be a competitive gymnast, so my daughter knew that athletes spend many hours training, and are always trying to get better. So she started training for hours (up to 20 a week), andView Story When my daughter attended her first swim practice, the coaches referred to the swimmers as athletes. Her sister used to be a competitive gymnast, so my daughter knew that athletes spend many hours training, and are always trying to get better. So she started training for hours (up to 20 a week), and keeps pushing herself to get better. And she turned herself into an athlete, by any definition. She is trim, fit, and a dynamite swimmer and power lifter. Thank you, Special Olympics, for all you have done for my daughter.

About Karen Reznek:Proud parent of a daughter who will be swimming for Team USA!
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December 17, 2014 | Latin America: Puerto Rico

Special Olympics and Lions Clubs Play Unified in Puerto Rico

By David Evangelista

As spectators streamed into a sports complex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the inaugural event of the 2014 Lions Clubs International USA/Canada Forum, it was clear that something unique was about to happen.View Story As spectators streamed into a sports complex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the inaugural event of the 2014 Lions Clubs International USA/Canada Forum, it was clear that something unique was about to happen. Two Unified basketball teams – made up of Special Olympics Puerto Rico athletes and Leos from Puerto Rico – took the court sporting new uniforms adorning the logos of two organizations dedicated to ensuring that basketball was just the start. The game highlighted the exciting expansion of the organization’s partnership, “Mission: Inclusion”, which provides key vision care and health services to Special Olympics athletes and promotes inclusive sports programming among their global Leo youth network. “It’s fantastic what we are seeing here this evening. Together, we are creating new ways to serve our communities, and demonstrate the power that youth can have in charting this course,” said Joe Preston, President of Lions Clubs International.

About David Evangelista:I am the Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics.
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December 15, 2014 | Africa: Kenya

Learning from Special Olympics athletes

By John Onani

Myself trying to make a shot.

At first I was apprehensive because before then I had never interacted with any individual with intellectual disabilities. But on the first day of training all my fears and misconceptions were erased by the great experience I had.View Story I was invited to join the Special Olympics Kenya University of Nairobi club by my classmate who was already a unified partner. At first I was apprehensive because before then I had never interacted with any individual with intellectual disabilities. But on the first day of training all my fears and misconceptions were erased by the great experience I had. I discovered that individuals with intellectual disabilities are just like me, they have dreams and desires and given the opportunity they can as well shine like any other young person. Since then I have made lasting friendship with my teammates with intellectual disabilities, actually I have noticed that they also value our friendship and therefore I should not take them for granted. Above the friendship and changed attitude I have learnt many important virtues from Special Olympics athletes, I have learnt determination, consistency and patience. I can say I have become a better person since I joined Special Olympics Kenya.

About John Onani:My name is John Onani,I'm 20 years old and I'm a basketball unified partner at the university of Nairobi Special Olympics Kenya club.I joined Special Olympics Kenya this year.
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December 01, 2014 | Africa: South Africa

Tom Lugg is truly an inspirational athlete

By Mrs Igna Steyn

We are fortunate to be able to share the story of one amazing athlete, Mr. Tom Lugg. Tom was very close to being a recluse growing up until he was introduced to Special Olympics at age 11, when he had Golf Sports Specific training. His late coach Mr. Steven Snyman saw raw talent and took over his basic coaching for four years.View Story Special Olympics give athletes the platform to grow and transition to reveal their true potential through the power of sports. Sports is a universal language that brings everyone together in a common goal to have fun, have tolerance and respect regardless of who you are! We are fortunate to be able to share the story of one amazing athlete, Mr. Tom Lugg. Tom was very close to being a recluse growing up until he was introduced to Special Olympics at age 11, when he had Golf Sports Specific training. His late coach Mr. Steven Snyman saw raw talent and took over his basic coaching for four years. In 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, he hit his first practise shot and won the four round events by four shots. In 2009 Tom was invited to Taipei to compete in an elite event, he shot his first and only to date hole in one in the first round and won the 54 hole tournament by one shot . He kept doing extraordinarily well and in the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens he won by 26 shots over 72 holes. This was the same year that he sadly lost his mentor, coach and friend. In 2013 Tom was invited to participate in the Special Olympics Asia Pacific masters in Macua, a development and skills competition with a mentor golfer and athlete. Toms shot a remarkable 76 and 73 on the Caesars Golf Course and received a gold medal. In the same year Tom was the first Special Olympics golfer to qualify on merit for any national event at the Sanlam South Africa Amateur Championship. In 2014 he went back to Macau and but unfortunately this time he lost with two shots. However he won the level 5 gold medal competing against mainstream golfers. Tom has won a super golf day at Kyalami Golf Course with a partner; he has helped the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) with coaching at the annual Special Olympics South Africa Golf Day and recently got his first job at Copperleaf Golf Course as part of the maintenance team!

About Mrs Igna Steyn :I am the Special Olympics South Africa CEO
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December 01, 2014 | Africa: Tanzania

Exciting developments in Geita, Tanzania

By Mr Frank Macha

The future looks bright for people with an intellectual disability in Geita. Geita family members have become proactive in improving the lives of their children or relatives with an intellectual disability. The Special Olympics Tanzania sub program recently hosted a Family Health Forum and a coaches training.View Story The future looks bright for people with an intellectual disability in Geita. Geita family members have become proactive in improving the lives of their children or relatives with an intellectual disability. The Special Olympics Tanzania sub program recently hosted a Family Health Forum and a coaches training. Both were facilitated by Special Olympics Tanzania National Director, Mr. Frank Macha. Family Health Forums are a support network that brings families of those with an intellectual disability together in a caring positive way. It introduces parents to Special Olympics, the opportunities that it provides to their family members with an intellectual disability and addresses a number of health issues that enables them to provide better care for them. After the forum in Geita the family members gathered together to open a bank account that will contribute towards more family health forums and in getting guest speakers who will better equip them around the issue of intellectual disability. In the same week a coaches training was conducted and 50 coaches were trained to help sub program grow and to reach as many people with intellectual disability as possible. During this training alone a total of 105 athletes where recruited! The Geita District of Education had also promised full support of all Special Olympics initiatives in the region.

About Mr Frank Macha :Special Olympics Tanzania National Director
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December 01, 2014 | North America: Florida

Autism & Special Olympics - Always An Adventure!

By Lora Brewer

Brewer Brothers Ready for Action

For the past 15 years, the Brewer family has trying to find programs for their sons with autism. All boundaries for these two boys have been destroyed since they discovered Special Olympics.View Story For the past 15 years, the Brewer family has been coping with both of their sons being diagnosed with autism. At times it is very difficult to find programs that encourage them to venture outside of their comfort zones due to their limitations. All boundaries for these two boys have been destroyed since we discovered Special Olympics in Volusia County, FL. They have participated in soccer, track, surfing, and paddle boarding. I have seen their confidence and self-esteem grow with each accomplishment. The coaches and volunteers work with them beautifully while maintaining the continuity of the sport they are participating in. They both qualified to compete in Cocoa Beach this year and had a fantastic time. Special Olympics has helped draw our family closer as we became cheerleaders for AJ and Jimmy at every event. We look forward to 2015 and all of the new adventures that await us as we continue to participate with Special Olympics and reach higher than before.

About Lora Brewer:I am the mom of two teenagers with Autism and other neurological disorders. I teach special needs students at Monarch Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida. We are actively involved with autism programs in central Florida. Some days it feels like we might not make it through, but our motto is that "Every Day is an Adventure" and we work hard to make the most out of each challenge and continue to push the limits of what we can accomplish.
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November 26, 2014 | Africa: Senegal

Special Olympics Senegal uses football to combat Malaria.

By Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.

Special Olympics Senegal has signed an memorandum of understanding with Speak up Africa to create a “Football Combating Malaria Nation.” Speak Up Africa is a creative health communications advocacy organisation dedicated to catalyzing African leadership, enabling policy change, securing resources and inspiring individual action.View Story Special Olympics Senegal has signed an MOU with Speak up Africa to create a “Football Combating Malaria Nation.” Speak Up Africa is a creative health communications advocacy organisation dedicated to catalyzing African leadership, enabling policy change, securing resources and inspiring individual action for the most pressing issue affecting Africa’s future, child health. Following the signing approximately 30 Coaches in the Senegal were trained by Speak Up Africa under the “Football combating Malaria” program. Coaches were trained and educated by both organisations around Malaria, the Football combating Malaria Campaign, a community census programme, the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, communication for behavioural change, and follow up assessment and supervision. The thirty coaches are now regarded as community leaders combating malaria. They will visit communities, assisted by the Ministry of Health, to share prevention methods using football as a medium. They are now proud agents of change and the partnership with Speak Up Africa will reinforce Special Olympics Senegal’s engagement in the community.

About Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.:Special Olympics Senegal National Director
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November 26, 2014 | Africa: Senegal

Senegal hosts their annual Camp Shriver.

By Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.

Special Olympics Senegal annually hosts a Camp Shriver that hosts over 100 children. The Camp continues a tradition that created by our founder, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver who hosted the first camp right in her own backyard in Maryland.View Story Special Olympics Senegal annually hosts a Camp Shriver that hosts over 100 children. The Camp continues a tradition that created by our founder, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver who hosted the first camp right in her own backyard in Maryland. The Camp Shriver experience significantly boosts skills in multiple sports and fosters social inclusion for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities who come together in a common goal of inclusion and participation regardless of ability. Special Olympics Senegal receives great support for this camp from the Ministry of Youth and this relationship has made it possible for the program to host this event annually. This year 121 athletes and partners experienced a great camping adventure. They got to participate in table tennis and basketball; swimming lessons were treated to a field trip to the zoo, a guided tour at the Economic and social council, and a visit to the Monument of the Renaissance. The athletes were trained by Special Olympics Senegal coaches and were chaperoned by volunteers and 21 monitors and a special education teacher. They all enjoyed their time at the camp and are looking forward to the next year’s camp.

About Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.:Special Olympics Senegal National Director
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Our History

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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