Special Olympics Mission

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

45 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 more than 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


July 12, 2014 | North America: Oklahoma

Hard life till Special Olympics

By Joshu

I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.View Story I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.

About Joshu:I'm Joshua Smith. I'm from Tulsa Oklahoma. I'm going on 30 years old. My life was not perfect.
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July 12, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Australia

Smiling despite the storm

By jack mcneilly

On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams.View Story On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams. The end result was a 1-0 win to the Philippines. After the game I took the Australian players into our opponents rooms, I had good reason to do this. Barely 4 weeks prior to the game the Philippines experienced a natural disaster.Typhoon Haiyan, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded,it devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, on November 8, 2013. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,268 people in that country alone. Haiyan is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall, and unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. Even four weeks after the Typhoon bodies were still being found. Despite their country being a disaster zone the Philippine players could still smile, clearly my proudest moment as a coach..

About jack mcneilly:Im jack McNeilly coach of the Australia 2 team who took part in the Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle. My football team took on the Philippines after the game i took my boys into the opposition rooms. I told my players about the big storm that had hit the Philippines 4 weeks earlier, we all agreed that we just had to wish them. I'm coaching the Victorian SO football team in October at the national games, I live in Wangaratta and have a wife and two children.
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July 10, 2014 | North America: Maryland

The Importance of Mrs. Shriver!!!

By Cathi Holibaugh

Many years ago my daughter was competing in Summer Games at the University of Maryland for aquatics. I was sitting in the stands with the athletes waiting for them to be staged when I saw Mrs. Shriver.View Story Many years ago my daughter was competing in Summer Games at the University of Maryland for aquatics. I was sitting in the stands with the athletes waiting for them to be staged when I saw Mrs. Shriver across the pool greeting the swimmers as the completed their races. I looked at the athletes and said, "Do you see that beautiful women in the yellow pants? She is the reason you are here today!" No reply. "Ok her daughter is on TV. She is Maria Shriver!" No reply. "OK her son in law is in the movies...he's the Terminator!" All of a sudden they got so excited about seeing her!! I had the honor of meeting Mrs. Shriver in the hallway afterwards and told her the story. Her reply with a big smile on her face was, "I really am important aren't I?" We both laughed and I hugged her and thanked her for all she has done for my daughter and all the athletes!!! It was a special day!

About Cathi Holibaugh:My daughter, Tammy has had the honor of being a Special Olympic athlete for 19 years. I volunteer and coach bowling or our county.
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July 10, 2014 | North America: South Carolina

Bringing Home Gold and a New Pair of Glasses

By Leigh Cheatham

Kevin shoots a layup during the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. Photo credit - 2014 Special Olympics USA Games

Kevin Sessions, 19, and his dad and coach Warren Sessions found that a trip to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes helped to make Team South Carolina’s goal of gold a possibility at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.View Story Kevin Sessions, 19, and his dad and coach Warren Sessions found that a trip to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes helped to make Team South Carolina’s goal of gold a possibility at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.Kevin had been having some trouble in basketball practice for a few weeks leading up to Games. At first, Warren thought it was just a bad day, but the problem persisted. Kevin told his dad that things were just blurry and he couldn't see clearly.  The first chance they got at USA Games, Warren took Kevin and his brother and teammate Christopher over to the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes clinic. Turns out, Kevin has some spots behind his eyes, which could be the beginning stages of glaucoma.  He was also diagnosed with nearsightedness.  Kevin was fit for glasses onsite and told to pick them up the next day. There was a big basketball game scheduled for the next day and Warren asked the Opening Eyes volunteers if there was any way to get the glasses before Team South Carolina played... Twenty minutes later, Kevin could see clearly. The next day was the big game. The team warmed up on the court and Warren immediately could tell the difference in Kevin’s shooting.  During that game, with his new glasses on, Kevin scored 12 points! Kevin and his team went on to win gold. See Chris in his new glasses in the front row in a photo taken after his team cut down the net.Warren says that it couldn't have happened without the generosity of the team at Healthy Athletes. "It was great to see someone get to the level to help your child. Plus it totally boosted his confidence level."Kevin was one of 1,079 athletes who completed free Healthy Athletes exams at the 2014 USA Games. Based on the exams at Opening Eyes alone, 49 percent of athletes - including Kevin - who went through Opening Eyes received or will receive prescription eyewear.

About Leigh Cheatham:Director of Communications, Special Olympics South Carolina
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July 02, 2014 | North America: Michigan

An Unspoken Bond

By Aaron Mills

A year ago, Tate Levendoski and Leoudy Sosa didn't know each other or have a way to communicate with each other. That didn't last long!View Story A year ago, Tate Levendoski and Leoudy Sosa didn't know each other or have a way to communicate with each other. The two met through Project UNIFY. Tate was paired with Leoudy, who also happens to be deaf, for Unified bowling. The two formed an instant bond despite the fact that they had to overcome a major language barrier. "I didn't know sign language, but through the hallways we gave each other high fives," recalls Tate. The pair's inability to communicate didn't last long, though. "Leoudy showed me a sign language website," says Tate. "Every night before bed, before I go to school, whenever I have some time, I go through and learn new signs. And ever since then, I'm signing with him and...we've been talking back and forth." Tate and Leoudy represented Team Michigan in Unified bowling at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey, winning the gold medal in their division! But the medals they brought home are nothing compared to the lifelong friendship they formed.

About Aaron Mills:Aaron Mills is the Public Relations and Social Media Manager at Special Olympics Michigan.
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July 01, 2014 | Africa: Kenya

Nandi county, Kenya, finds a heroine in Mrs. Kaittany

By Mr John Makathimo

Special Olympics Kenya was introduced to the Nandi County by a very courageous lady, Mrs. Rhoda Kaittany. Mrs. Kaittany was determined to seek help for her son, who has an intellectual disability, in a region that didn’t cater to children with special needs.View Story Special Olympics Kenya was introduced to the Nandi County by a very courageous lady, Mrs. Rhoda Kaittany. Mrs. Kaittany was determined to seek help for her son, who has an intellectual disability, in a region that didn’t cater to children with special needs. She took it upon herself to create the infrastructure needed to support a Special Olympics program in Nandi County, to find children with intellectual disabilities who were not in school, to find teachers and chiefs who were willing to be trained as coaches, to procure corporate sponsorship, and to identify facilities to host Special Olympics events. Her valiant efforts paid off and the Nandi program was launched with support from local government and a commitment to include the new sub-program in budget allocation for the 2014-2015 fiscal years. With this support the county was able to host its first county competitions in May at the Aldia Girls Secondary School. Approximately 45 athletes, 9 Unified partners and 45 family members attended the competitions. A remarkable highlight in Mrs. Kaittany's story is the discovery of three children with an intellectual disability who had grown up in virtual isolation due to the lack of facilities in the region, one was even tied with a rope and locked in a sheep’s pen to keep him out of harm's way. Happily these three youths are now involved with Special Olympics and were able to participate in the competitions. Mrs. Kiattanty remarked that one looked overjoyed about being outside, while another seemed shocked as if he was seeing the world for the very first time. The county put on a great competition for the athletes and provided them with entertainment in song, dance and poems that was thoroughly enjoyed by the family members and community who came out in full support to witness their children reveal their true potential.

About Mr John Makathimo:Special Olympics Kenya National Director
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June 26, 2014 | Africa: Malawi

Malawi addresses clean drinking water

By Mr Felix Chisowa

Contaminated water poses a serious health risk to families and causes gastrointestinal and stomach illnesses. Special Olympics Malawi tackled the water sanitization issue head on during a Family Health Forum.View Story Contaminated water poses a serious health risk to families and causes gastrointestinal and stomach illnesses like nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea. In contrast, drinking clean water protects the body from disease, improves overall health and aids children in developing a healthy immune system. Special Olympics Malawi tackled the water sanitization issue head on during a Family Health Forum held in Salima and Nkhata Bay in the month of April. Family members that attended received water packs which serve as a more hygenic option for carrying water and are also more practical and comfortable than the less sanitary bucket system. The benefits of the water packs are numerous in that it helps women and children avoid the chronic pain and spinal injury caused by carrying heavy water jugs stop thier heads in the traditional fashion; the pack is 7 times lighter and 7 times smaller to store than a 20L capacity jerry cans and finally it is a much safer alternative to buckets and jerry cans. A Family member and district coordinator, Mr. Bernard Flezer, commended Special Olympics for the great contribution they have made to the community and expressed his gratitude on behalf of the community members and himself. This initiative is part of the programs Healthy Communities Project aimed at reducing health risks for the community and Special Olympics Malawi athletes in particular.

About Mr Felix Chisowa :Special Olympics Malawi National Director
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June 26, 2014 | Africa: Botswana

35 Botswana athlete leaders receive HIV/AIDS education

By Mr Ross Tebele

Special Olympics Botswana partnered with the Ministry of Health to host an Athlete Leadership Programs training to educate Special Olympics athlete leaders about HIV/AIDS.View Story Special Olympics Botswana, with the assistance of Sports Director Mr. Tebogo Ditlhokwa, partnered with the Ministry of Health to host an Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) training to educate Special Olympics athlete leaders about HIV/AIDS. Ms. Kabo Ngombe, a health officer with the Ministry of Health, conducted the training. She was amazed by how knowledgeable the athletes were regarding HIV/AIDS. The leaders who were trained will join Ms. Ngombe to help educate more athletes as part of a drive to create awareness on the HIV/AIDS health pandemic. This initiative was taken by the program in an effort to educate athletes about HIV/AIDS and also to educate them on their rights and sexual abuse. HIV/AIDS was placed firmly on the agenda during the recent Special Olympics African Leaders Forum on Disability hosted by the Malawi Government.

About Mr Ross Tebele :Special Olympics Botswana National Directors
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June 26, 2014 | Africa: Ghana

Ghana trains health professionals to provide better care for athletes

By Mr Seth Asamaoh

During April approximately 50 health care professionals attended a training aimed at equipping them to address specific health issues experienced by people with an intellectual disability.View Story During April approximately 50 health care professionals attended a training aimed at equipping them to address specific health issues experienced by people with an intellectual disability (ID). The participants, who trained at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Adabraka-Accra in Ghana, left with basic skills and the ability to assess the health needs of people with ID. Research studies conducted by Special Olympics found that individuals with ID face widespread health problems, but physicians, dentist and other health care professionals are not receiving adequate training to treat individuals with ID. For more than 15 years, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® volunteer healthcare professionals have provided health screenings, health education,services and referrals for follow-up care in 122 countries. Special Olympics is the world’s largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities – a population that faces severe health issues and inadequate or non-existent care. The training was facilitated in an effort to break down preconceived notions around ID and to reduce the challenge people with ID experience in receiving health care. The training was supported by the Special Olympics Ghana Board Chair, Mr. Augustine Kokukokor, Special Olympics Ghana National Director, Mr. Seth Asamoah, Special Olympics Clinical Director, Dr. Paul Kyponyoh and, guest of honour, the Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. John Majisi. The family members and athletes present at the training were very excited about the opportunities being created for them in Ghana.

About Mr Seth Asamaoh:Special Olympics Ghana National Director
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June 20, 2014 | SOI General: Headquarters

New Jersey Embraces Unified Sports

By Christy White

Members of the unified soccer team for Special Olympics New Jersey saw the new legislation signed into law.

Young people with disabilities don't often get a chance to play on their school sports teams, but New Jersey has a new law encouraging the unified sports approach that Special Olympics pioneered.View Story Young people with disabilities don't often get a chance to play on their school sports teams, but more and more U.S. states are adopting the unified sports approach that Special Olympics pioneered. The governor of New Jersey just signed a bill into law that encourages schools to make opportunities for sports participation available to all students. Special Olympics New Jersey, which championed the new law, is cited in the new law as a consulting organization. For almost 20 years, Special Olympics has offered sport teams that blend people with and without intellectual disabilities. It's a model that encourages sports and fun, and which also gets people together to learn more about each other. Read more about the new law in the press release below.

About Christy White:I am Director of Global Media and Public Relations for Special Olympics.
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Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
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Special Olympics Blog

A Powerful Prescription

"Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug."read more »

Posted on 2014-05-06 by Healthy Athletes

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