Volunteer for Special Olympics
Volunteers are the backbone of the Special Olympics movement. They are coaches, trainers, officials, event organizers, fundraisers and managers. They can also be unified partners -- playing alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities -- or fans cheering in the stands.
Helpful Hint. Special Olympics athlete Erin Thompson of Virginia gets pre-race instructions from volunteer race official Bob McCormick.
Rewarding for All
Our volunteers are all ages and their commitments can range from an afternoon to a lifetime. From China to the United States, Ghana to Singapore, Australia to Paraguay, Ireland to India, our volunteers are helping to bring out the champion in every Special Olympics athlete.
Special Olympics would not exist today — and could not have been created -- without the time, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers. We owe so much to these millions of people who find the time to make the world a better place.
If you want to be a volunteer, get in touch with Special Olympics near you.
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
Spirit of Giving
Special Olympics is about transforming lives, including your own. It’s about a spirit of giving and teamwork. It's about making your commune ty and neighborhood a more welcoming and accepting place for people of all abilities.
It’s also about creating lifelong friendships and finding a new way of thinking about others.
Our volunteers include the local coach who works with athletes many times a week. Or the people who help organize and plan our World Games every two years. Or the photographers who take the most amazing pictures of our athletes in action.
All around the world, Special Olympics training, competitions and other events are happening 365 days a year. There is always something interesting to do!
All Ages, All Interests
We have seen dramatic growth in teens and young adults volunteering with Special Olympics. These volunteers include students taking part in school-based groups like Special Olympics Project UNIFY and Special Olympics College. Their enthusiasm, dedication and creativity are hard to beat!
One of our college leaders began volunteering on a whim when she was in the second grade. She calls that "the best decision of my life."
Charles Scott of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors has been a longtime volunteer. Over the years, he has learned that Special Olympics is a place that deeply appreciates its volunteers, their spirit and dedication. "You know you’re really helping people who are differently able than others," he says. "That’s a gratifying experience for us all.”
Stories About Our Volunteers
September 15, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Belgium
Mieke De Mot wins first gold medal
By Charlotte Van Havermaet
Swimmer Mieke De Mot won Belgians first gold medal. In her category, 400m freestyle, Mieke won with a time of 06:26:44.View Story ▼Swimmer Mieke De Mot won Belgians first gold medal. In her category, 400m freestyle, Mieke won with a time of 06:26:44.
Mieke started as second swimmer. Then she got passed very quick by the Norwegian swimmer Rona Hjelmstad and the British Natalie Moon. De Mot swims a while in fourth position, until Rona Hjelmstad had to give up. The bronze medal is for Belgium. In her subseries, Mieke took first place and hereby also the gold medal in het category.
After the game, Miekes family is thrilled. For a while they were afraid she wouldn’t be able to compete in the Games. Her older brother Stijn says: “Two weeks ago, Mieke suffered from a sports injury and for a while it was uncertain if she’d be physically able to attend. Fortunately she recovered in time and now she won gold! We are very satisfied!”
Results: first place is for the Russian Kraeva Ekaterina with a time of 05:01:82, second place for the British Natalie Moon and bronze is for our Belgian athlete Mieke De Mot.
About Charlotte Van Havermaet:I am a volunteer at Special Olympics as a reporter at the media centreView less ▲
September 15, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Belgium
Volunteers are also the stars of the Special Olympics European Games
By Ayla Colman
Melina Willems, coordinator Audiology at HAP
This week the athletes competing at the Special Olympics Summer Games are the stars of Antwerp but so too are the volunteers.View Story ▼This week the athletes competing at the Special Olympics Summer Games are the stars of Antwerp but so too are the volunteers. Among the most important activity at Special Olympics Games is the Healthy Athletes program where athletes undergo free health screening checks from volunteer medical professionals. Medical professionals such as Melina Willems. Melina Willems from Belgium works as Coordinator of the audiology section of the Healthy Athletes screening. It started out as a hobby, but later it “escalated a little” said Melina. She got in touch with Special Olympics through her work and then she was hooked. Today she’s helping at the Games for almost fifteen years at National, European and International Special Olympics games. “I love this job so much because the athletes can be so disarming. One of my volunteering T-shirts shows the slogan ‘It’s voluntary, but addictive’. It is so true. It’s a lot of work, but once you’re here, you don’t feel like you’re at work anymore."
About Ayla Colman:I am a volunteer at the European Special Olympics as a reporter at the media centreView less ▲
September 04, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan
Umair Ahmed Shaikh
By Aisha Bandukda
Umair's siblings do not have any disabilities and his mother was very worried as he was unable to cope with his work. After joining Special Olympics Pakistan, a noticeable change could be seen as he made many new friends on the grounds.View Story ▼Umair Ahmed Shaikh, 23, has been a part of SPECIAL OLYMPICS PAKISTAN for 15 years. He helps out with office and kitchen work. His academic qualifications include passing Intermediate level. Sir Arif was training at his school, 'Danish Gha' and that is how his family was introduced to Special Olympics Pakistan. His siblings do not have any disabilities and his mother was very worried as he was unable to cope with his work. She admitted him in a special school where his improvement was very slow.
After joining Special Olympics Pakistan, a noticeable change could be seen as he made many new friends on the grounds.
He excelled in Basketball to the point of being selected for the world games (Athens 2011), where he won a silver medal, confirming that people with intellectual disabilities are as good as any other, if given a chance. He currently trains other special children in basketball.
His family and friends encourage others to join the programme.
About Aisha Bandukda:I am Aisha Bandukda, currently enrolled at IBA and I work as a volunteer at Special Olympics Pakistan.View less ▲
September 04, 2014 | North America: Northern California
Listening Around Me
By Megan McCareins
Something pulled me into the special ed room of my high school freshman year, and I asked to join Best Buddies because I wanted to make a new friend or two who would be fun to hang out with.View Story ▼Something pulled me into the special ed room of my high school freshman year, and I asked to join Best Buddies because I wanted to make a new friend or two who would be fun to hangout with. Best Buddies introduced me to my friend Kevin who is different than and similar to me. I cannot complain about sensory overload at work while sitting next to him. We spent a lot of time in high school during the day together, watching movies at lunch, listening to each other laugh and comment during scenes. After watching a movie with Kevin, I left the special ed room at a smooth pace headed toward my next class. Hanging out with Kevin, a unique member of our student body because of his distinct communication patterns brought on by autism, brought me perspective on my surroundings and the communication patterns of my peers that I did not always agree with. I liked listening to Kevin more than listening to chatter in the halls, when people used the r-word to hurt others.
About Megan McCareins:I became President of ETHS' Best Buddies Chapter and along with the help of our chapter, brought the "Spread the Word" campaign to ETHS. I'm now living and working in San Francisco in Communications. View less ▲
August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Great Britain
Conner and Comaneci: Volunteer Heroes
By Chris Hull
Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci pose with gymnasts from Special Olympics Great Britain.
Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci.View Story ▼Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci. Not only meet her, but perform for her and have a 90-minute hands-on skills session with her. "Incredible," she said.
Comaneci and her husband, Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner, devoted an evening to a group of lucky Special Olympics Great Britain gymnasts on 18 August in London. It was part of a decades-long commitment to Special Olympics that the couple has shared. Both are big fans of Special Olympics and are on the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. They volunteer their experience and knowledge to ensure Special Olympics gymnasts around the world get a chance to perform to the peak of their abilities.
About Chris Hull:I am the communications director for Special Olympics Great Britain.View less ▲
August 19, 2014 | Latin America: Panamá
Special Olympics Panama Athlete Leader Recognized For Her Work with People with Intellectual Disabilities
By Maryorie Patiño Jaén
Brenda Bassan, Special Olympics Panama athlete leader, was recently recognized by the Association of Entrepreneurs and Professionals in Panama, as a 2014 "Distinguished Youth," for her work with people with intellectual disabilities and involvement with Special Olympics.View Story ▼Brenda Bassan, Special Olympics Panama athlete leader, was recently recognized by the Association of Entrepreneurs and Professionals in Panama, as a 2014 "Distinguished Youth," for her work with people with intellectual disabilities and involvement with Special Olympics. The association is dedicated to improving the quality of life of women by providing opportunities for growth. Brenda is an athlete leader for Special Olympics bowling and volunteers with a Special Olympics to provide young people with school and community-based opportunities that help them understand ways to serve as active citizens for change in their local, national, and global communities.
About Maryorie Patiño Jaén:Director of Public Awareness of Special Olympics PanamaView less ▲
August 13, 2014 | North America: Texas
Why I got into Meet in the Middle Project Unify
By Malerie Corbell
I've only been in Meet in the Middle for a little over a year and I've not only made a difference in their lives (athletes) but they've made a difference in mine. They've turned my whole life around and on the right course.View Story ▼My name is Malerie Corbell, and I took the pledge to end the r-word. I took the pledge and joined the Meet in the Middle group because I've had a lot of personal problems. Over the past 4 years I've had severe depression and wanted a change. I've only been in MIM for a little over a year and I've not only made a difference in their lives (athletes) but they've made a difference in mine. They've turned my whole life around and on the right course. I've also recently went to a Project Unified conference in Austin and learned so many new things and have so many new ideas for my school and how to spread the word to my community.
About Malerie Corbell :I am 15 years old. I am a unified partner, youth participant, and I guess you could say a volunteer. I absolutely LOVE being a part of Special Olympics and Project Unify! View less ▲
About Special Olympics in North America
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Volunteer Near You
Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!