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Giving Families a Voice

Family members of persons with intellectual disability often feel confused and alone. Getting involved with Special Olympics gives families a support network providing them acceptance, resources, hope and a chance to become advocates – making them a valued voice in our movement.

Changing Lives

Father and Son. Richard Koch of Virginia says he’s learned a lot from his son Jonathan, a Special Olympics athlete who was the inspiration for his involvement in the movement.

David Noel speaks for many dads of Special Olympics athletes as he describes how Special Olympics eliminates the disparity between families’ lowered expectations and their children’s’ desire and determination to succeed.

“Special Olympics has changed our lives. We had no idea what our daughter, Tammi, was really capable of. Sometimes we held her back because we thought she couldn't handle the responsibility. She has developed into a more responsible adult, rather than the child we saw her as. We’re so excited with the new relationship that we have with our daughter that we are anxious to share with other parents that these athletes are way more capable than we give them credit for.”

Richard Koch says he’s learned a lot from his son Jonathan, a Special Olympics Virginia athlete, who’s been the inspiration for his involvement as a coach. “Special Olympics gives me a renewed sense of awe and wonder.”

Beneficial Insight at Hand

The Brennan family from Georgia feels like no one can support a parent of an individual with intellectual disability better than another parent who has been through the same experience. Dad Brennan coaches basketball, softball and volleyball and Mom Brennan says, “Special Olympics is not just for kids, it is for families too! I have seen family’s horizons expand. They come out of the shadows and into the light. Networking and visiting with families who ‘walk the walk’ enables people to enjoy their own family and appreciate their blessings.”

A study in Connecticut showed that 97 percent of families who have children with intellectual disabilities reported an improvement of their child’s self image because of their involvement Special Olympics; 91 percent reported a new dimension of happiness for the family and 100 percent reported that Special Olympics is a good support group for the family.

And in a study conducted in the United States that documented the impact of participation in Special Olympics on families, more than 75 percent reported that involvement in Special Olympics has connected them to a wider community of social support. As one family member commented, “It’s just fun. You’re out talking with people, and you meet people that you’d never met before in your life. The family atmosphere just grows.”

How Families Connect

On a day-to-day basis, families connect by volunteering at athletic trainings, meeting in local gatherings, sharing links and information and talking online via a global network. For every family, each new accomplishment is a joyful story and a reason to celebrate.